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Proulx v. Illinois High School Ass'n





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. C. Joseph Cavanagh, Judge, presiding.


This appeal presents another in the relatively small but growing series of cases in which amateur athletes resort to the judicial system when displeased with the rulings and regulations of their associations. On petition of the plaintiffs, the circuit court of Sangamon County enjoined the defendant association from barring or preventing the plaintiffs from participating in a swim meet. The defendants have appealed. No evidence was taken in the trial court and therefore the factual situation must be gleaned from the pleadings. These consist of plaintiffs' complaint, affidavits verifying the complaint, a petition for temporary injunction, verified by affidavit, counsel's affidavit concerning notice, and the trial court's order of injunction.

It appears that the plaintiffs are members of the Springfield High School girls' swimming team; the defendants are the Illinois State High School Association (IHSA) and certain of its officers and directors. The IHSA is a voluntary association of public and private high schools in the State whose purpose is to conduct interscholastic activities, including the Illinois State Girls Swim Meet Series. Springfield High School, a unit of School District No. 186, located at Springfield, is a member of the IHSA.

The Illinois State Girls Swim Meet Series for the year 1983-84 consisted of three tiers: (1) participation by the high school's team in six interscholastic swimming and diving meets during the school year; (2) a sectional meet held on November 12, 1983; and (3) the State Final Meet held on November 18-19, 1983, at New Trier High School in Northfield, Illinois. The plaintiffs had participated through the sectional meet and had qualified for participation in the State Final Meet.

On November 16, 1983, the Springfield Education Association, which represented teachers employed in District No. 186, notified the district that a work stoppage would commence on November 17, 1983. The IHSA had promulgated what is denominated in the complaint as its "strike policy." It is not clear whether this constitutes a rule or regulation of the IHSA, but in any event the parties have treated it as binding upon Springfield High School. The policy provides that:

"[A] member school which does not have 51 percent of the students in the district in attendance and cannot offer the minimum program required by state law and ISBE Circular Series A160 shall not engage in interscholastic activities.

IHSA By-Laws 3.012 and 3.015, relating to attendance requirements and eligibility requirements of interscholastic participants and By-Laws 2.040, relating to schools with which contests may be held, shall be enforced."

The bylaws mentioned have to do with school attendance by individual students during the semester.

The work stoppage began on November 17 and a representative of the State Board of Education determined on that date that District No. 186 could not offer the minimum program required by State law. In light of that determination, the executive secretary of the IHSA ruled that the plaintiffs could not participate in the State Final Meet, and this ruling was upheld by the IHSA Board of Directors on November 17, 1983.

On November 18, 1983, plaintiffs filed in the circuit court of Sangamon County a "Complaint for Injunctive Relief," verified by the affidavits of the parents of the plaintiffs as their next friends. There was also filed a "Petition for Temporary Injunction," verified by one of the parents, and an affidavit of counsel delineating his efforts to notify the defendants by telephone of a hearing on the petition, which was apparently scheduled for a hearing at 1:30 p.m. on November 18.

The complaint alleged facts as recited above and in addition alleged that the plaintiffs' swimming coach was not involved in the work stoppage and was able to provide supervision of the plaintiffs. The critical allegations for the purpose of this opinion are:

"The plaintiffs will be irrepairably [sic] harmed if they are not permitted to participate in the Girl's State Swimming Meet Series as said series is a unique event that cannot be delayed or rescheduled from its scheduled November 19, 1983 date.

Defendants will not suffer injury by permitting Plaintiffs to participate in the State Swimming Meet Series in that should Defendants prevail in this cause all awards won by Plaintiffs in the Final Meet can be ...

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