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Wilson v. Collinsville Comm. U. Sch. Dist.

OPINION FILED JULY 5, 1983.

JOHN WILSON, FATHER AND NEXT FRIEND OF LYNN WILSON, A MINOR, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

COLLINSVILLE COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 10, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. Thomas E. Hildebrand, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE KASSERMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant, Collinsville Community Unit School District No. 10, appeals from an order which permanently enjoined it from continuing disciplinary action against Lynn Wilson, a junior at Collinsville High School. In an order entered May 26, 1983, we reversed the trial court's judgment, indicating that this opinion would follow.

On January 21, 1983, plaintiff, John Wilson, Lynn Wilson's father and next friend, filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a complaint for injunction. The complaint for injunction alleged, inter alia, that Miss Wilson was suspended from school on November 24, 1982, when school personnel observed her in possession of between 80 and 100 pills. Subsequent testing indicated that the pills contained caffeine. On December 2, 1982, an expulsion hearing took place and a few days later the Collinsville Board of Education approved the suspension of Miss Wilson and expelled her "for the remainder of the 1982-1983 school year for gross misconduct." In the complaint for injunction, plaintiff alleged that the disciplinary actions taken by the school board were "arbitrary, unreasonable, and excessive acts in light of the nature of the conduct of the minor and the prevailing regulations of the Defendant at the time of the conduct."

On April 6, 1983, a hearing on the temporary restraining order was conducted. Mr. Wilson testified that his daughter had not been in trouble previously and he did not know why she had pills in her possession.

Dallas Harrell, an assistant superintendent for defendant, testified that he was the hearing officer assigned to Miss Wilson's case and that it was his duty to investigate the matter for the school board. According to Mr. Harrell, when he questioned Miss Wilson she told him that the pills in her possession were to be delivered to other students and were for dieting. Miss Wilson further told Mr. Harrell that she was not selling the pills and that she did not know what caffeine was. Mr. Harrell stated that the student handbook's prohibition against "unauthorized drugs" might include aspirin, Tylenol, or vitamin pills but that it was not his responsibility to make such a determination.

John Renfro, defendant's school superintendent, testified that, based upon the evidence presented at Miss Wilson's expulsion hearing, he recommended to the school board that Miss Wilson be expelled because he considered her conduct to be "serious" and "destructive." Mr. Renfro indicated that generally when students are found either possessing or using "unauthorized drugs" they are immediately suspended and usually expelled. Mr. Renfro also stated that neither "drugs" nor "unauthorized" were defined in the student handbook.

The trial court granted the temporary restraining order, stating that it thought that "the punishment far outweighs the crime." The trial court further stated that it did not find the school board's disciplinary action to be arbitrary or capricious but concluded that under the circumstances, including Miss Wilson's good school record and the fact that the pills were not a controlled substance, Miss Wilson deserved another chance.

On February 4, 1983, the trial court reconvened for the purpose of determining whether the temporary restraining order should be made a permanent injunction. At this hearing, plaintiff requested that the trial court take judicial notice of the prior testimony presented at the hearing on the temporary restraining order, which the trial court did, and plaintiff then rested. Defendant, after arguing its motion to dismiss, then presented a number of witnesses.

Lynn Wilson, called as an adverse witness, admitted possession of the pills and testified that her possession of these pills was not for medicinal purposes.

Donna Rees, a forensic scientist with the Illinois Department of Law Enforcement, testified that the pills Miss Wilson possessed contained 65.4 milligrams of caffeine and 16.5 milligrams of ephedrine per tablet.

Randall Webber, the State Prevention Coordinator for the Illinois Dangerous Drugs Commission, testified that caffeine pills constituted a "look alike" drug and were readily available to teenagers in the schools. It was Mr. Webber's opinion that the availability of "look alike" drugs in the school constituted a danger because it constituted a physical threat to students and created an unhealthy drug-oriented atmosphere. Mr. Webber testified that within the past two years there have been six confirmed deaths related to "look alike" drugs containing caffeine.

Chris Carlton-Rankaitis, director of Project Oz, which is a drug education and prevention agency, also testified regarding the prevalence of "look alike" drugs in the schools. She indicated that the use of caffeine pills created a risk of overdoses and of psychological dependence.

Ron Ganschinietz, the principal of Collinsville High School, testified that he was familiar with the drug problem among the students. He related that he previously had been shot by a student under the influence of drugs. Mr. Ganschinietz was of the opinion that the presence of "look alike" drugs in school has a disruptive effect on the educational process. Mr. Ganschinietz testified that he recommended to the school board that Miss Wilson be expelled for the remainder of the school year because of her possession of the caffeine pills. Mr. Ganschinietz stated that the previous records of students are not considered in determining whether to ...


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