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03/16/88 Cheryl Bowie Et Al., v. Evanston Community

March 16, 1988





522 N.E.2d 669, 168 Ill. App. 3d 101, 119 Ill. Dec. 7 1988.IL.360

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Harold J. Siegan, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court. WHITE, P.J., and RIZZI, J., concur.


Plaintiffs, Cheryl Bowie, James Roberts, and Vanessa Gray, appeal the dismissal of their complaint by the circuit court of Cook County. Plaintiffs' complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief under the Freedom of Information Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 116, par. 201 et seq.) sought access to standardized California Achievement Test score records for students in certain grades and schools within defendant school district and a list of educational programs available in those schools.

Defendants maintain the subject records in the form of a "Report of Test Results" for each school year, school, and grade within each school. The reports contain each student's name, sex, race, and his or her raw score and percentile rank in 11 testing categories on the standardized California Achievement Test. Each report also contains the total and average test scores by school, grade, race and sex for the categories of "Total Students," "Total Black Boys," "Total Black Girls," "Total Other Boys" and "Total Other Girls." The sex and race of each student is represented by a digit from 1 to 10, each digit standing for a separate sex and race combination. For instance, the digit 1 stands for White Male, the digit 4 for Black Female, and the digit 9 for Hispanic Male. This digit appears in a vertical column with the heading "S/R" immediately after a vertical column listing the name of each student and immediately before 11 vertical columns in which each student's performance is detailed so that the name, sex, race and performance of each student is shown on the same horizontal line.

Defendant Evanston Community Consolidated School District 65 (school district), through defendant Eugene Mulcahy, its superintendent, denied plaintiffs' request for the subject records on the ground that they were exempt from disclosure under section 7 of the Freedom of Information Act. Section 7 provides, inter alia :

"The following shall be exempt from inspection and copying:

(a) Information specifically prohibited from disclosure by Federal or State law or rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto.

(b) Information which, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless such disclosure is consented to in writing by the individual subjects of such information." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 116, par. 207.)

Defendant Mulcahy claimed that section 6(a)(8) of the Illinois School Student Records Act prohibited the disclosure of the subject records without the written consent of the parents of the students concerned. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 50-6.) Defendants did supply plaintiffs certain information regarding the various educational programs conducted in the school district and claimed that it was all the information on such programs available.

Subsequent to plaintiffs' information requests, defendants publicly released a status report summarizing the 1985-86 student performance on the standardized California Achievement Test by district, school and race. The report contained the national percentile rank equivalents of average test scores for black and nonblack students in grades 1 through 5, 7 and 8 and the percentages of black and nonblack students in those grades in the highest and lowest quartiles on various subjects tested on the California Achievement Test.

Plaintiffs' complaint alleged that defendants refused to supply the requested information without legal basis. Defendants moved for dismissal of the complaint under section 2-619(a)(9) of the Civil Practice Law. That section provides for the dismissal of an action because the claim asserted is barred by affirmative matter, other than that listed in subparagraphs 1 through 8, which defeats, or avoids the legal effect of, the claim asserted. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 2-619(a)(9)). The trial court granted the motion as to plaintiffs' request for the standardized test scores because it believed that plaintiffs had received "sufficient information" of the test scores through defendants' release of the report containing average test scores for black and nonblack students. It also concluded that disclosure of the test scores would constitute an invasion of the privacy rights of the students whose test scores were the subject of plaintiffs' request. Finally, the trial court concluded that defendants may not have ...

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