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01/27/87 John K. Et Al., v. the Board of Education For

January 27, 1987





504 N.E.2d 797, 152 Ill. App. 3d 543, 105 Ill. Dec. 512 1987.IL.58

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas J. O'Brien, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE SCARIANO delivered the opinion of the court. BILANDIC and HARTMAN, JJ., concur.


The instant case involves the question of the right of parents to have access to records pertaining to their child's education. Specifically in this case, John and Mary K., plaintiffs-appellants herein, sought access under the Illinois School Student Records Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 50-1 et seq.) (hereinafter the School Records Act) to their daughter's responses to a Rorschach test administered to her by defendant-appellee school district. Each party filed a motion for summary judgment, and after hearing argument the circuit court granted defendant's request while denying plaintiffs'. The trial Judge concluded that the verbatim responses of the child were not "student records" as defined by the School Records Act, but rather were materials maintained by the school psychologist administering the test for her exclusive use. Alternatively, the court held that the responses were confidential under the Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 91 1/2, par. 801 et seq.) (hereinafter the Confidentiality Act). Finally, the trial Judge held that plaintiffs had an adequate remedy at law, precluding plaintiffs' request for an injunction directing access to the responses. Because we disagree with the circuit court's restrictive view of the requested materials, we reverse.

Plaintiffs, John and Mary K., are patrons of defendant school district, where their child, Jane K., attended school and where Nancy L. was the school's psychologist. Jane K. was twice administered psychological tests by Nancy L., first in April 1982 and again in January 1986. The tests were administered either at plaintiffs' request or with their consent, and included among the tests was one commonly known as the Rorschach, which involves showing the subject of the test a series of standardized inkblots and asking her to describe what she sees. These responses are recorded verbatim by the therapist administering the test, who thereafter interprets them. It was these verbatim answers which plaintiffs sought.

After both tests Nancy L. recommended that psychotherapy be considered by the parents. It does not seem that the recommendation was ever executed. After each of the two tests, Nancy L. reduced Jane K.'s responses to writing and later produced a report summarizing the tests administered, her analysis, and her recommendation.

Mary K. has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is qualified to administer the Rorschach test herself. She asserted that it was necessary to review her daughter's responses to the Rorschach tests in their raw form in order to evaluate both the responses and Nancy's L.'s recommendations. Accordingly, plaintiffs requested access to the raw data in order to obtain such an evaluation. When defendant ultimately refused to permit access to the data, plaintiffs initiated this suit for an injunction, asking that the circuit court order defendant to release the requested data to them.

The threshold question presented on review is whether or not the plaintiffs were entitled to have access to the raw test data of the Rorschach tests administered to their daughter in 1982 and 1986. Both parties requested summary judgment on that question, and it does not appear that there was any genuine issue of material fact unresolved which would preclude such relief to either party. (See Montes v. Hawkins (1984), 126 Ill. App. 3d 419, 423, 466 N.E.2d 1271.) Rather, this case presents the purely legal question of the proper construction of the School Records Act. In brief, it is plaintiffs' contention that the data at issue herein falls squarely within the purview of the School Records Act and is accordingly subject to disclosure to them. Defendant conversely maintains that the data is not part of the child's student record or is protected from disclosure by certain exclusions and exceptions embraced by the School Records Act, the Confidentiality Act, and Federal regulations.

The School Records Act requires a three-tiered analysis in making the determination called for herein. Initially, the court must determine whether the requested material was part of the "school student record," as therein defined. Assuming the first question is answered affirmatively, the court next must determine whether its classification is altered by certain statutory exclusions to that classification. Finally, if the initial classification remains unchanged, the court must decide whether the material is otherwise sheltered from release by any of the statutory exceptions to disclosure.

The pertinent statutory sections are excerpted below. As to the student record, the statute provides:

"'School Student Record' means any writing or other recorded information concerning a student and by which a student may be individually identified, maintained by a school or at its direction or by an employee of a school, regardless of how or where the information is stored. The following shall not be deemed school student records under this Act: writings or other recorded information maintained by an employee of a school or other person at the direction of a school for his or her exclusive use . . .." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 50-2(d).)

Patently, any writing about a student which identifies that student is considered part of his or her school student record. Notable is the exclusion of materials otherwise fitting within that broad definition which are maintained by an individual for his own "exclusive use."

The School Records Act goes on to subdivide the record as follows:

"'Student Permanent Record' means the minimum personal information necessary to a school in the education of the student and contained in a school student record. Such information may include the student's name, birth date, address, grades and grade level, parents' names and addresses, attendance records, and such other entries as the State Board may require or authorize." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 50-2(e).)

"'Student Temporary Record' means all information contained in a school student record but not contained in the student permanent record. Such information may include family background information, intelligence test scores, aptitude test scores, psychological and personality test results, teacher evaluations, and other information of clear relevance to the education of the ...

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