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02/28/97 LOCAL 1274 v. NILES TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOLS

February 28, 1997

LOCAL 1274, ILLINOIS FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, AFT, AFL-CIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NILES TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOLS, DISTRICT 219, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. HONORABLE ARTHUR L. DUNNE, JUDGE PRESIDING.

Released for Publication April 24, 1997.

The Honorable Justice Hoffman delivered the opinion of the court. Hourihane and South, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hoffman

JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff, Local 1274, commenced this action against the defendant, Niles Township High Schools, District 219, requesting disclosure of the names and addresses of all of the District's enrolled students and their parents under the Freedom of Information Act (hereinafter "FOIA" or "Act") (5 ILCS 140/1 et seq. (West 1994)). The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant, and the plaintiff now appeals.

This case is before this court for the second time. In the initial proceeding, the trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant, finding that before attempting to obtain the requested information under FOIA, the plaintiff was required to exhaust the grievance procedures under its collective bargaining agreement. This court reversed ( Local 1274, Illinois Federation of Teachers, AFT, AFL-CIO v. Niles Township High School District 219, 276 Ill. App. 3d 714, 659 N.E.2d 18, 213 Ill. Dec. 388 (1995)), concluding that the plaintiff had the right to seek the information under FOIA independent of any collective bargaining agreement. This court remanded the case for determination of the FOIA claim on the merits.

On remand, the plaintiff obtained leave of court to file its first-amended complaint. In that complaint, the plaintiff reiterated its demand for the names and addresses of the parents of students enrolled in District 219 for the purpose of "conducting mail surveys and otherwise communicating with the school community in the preparation of [collective] bargaining proposals." The complaint added that such information could be masked or scrambled as found necessary by the court in order to protect any confidentiality against disclosure.

The plaintiff then moved for summary judgment on its complaint. In the motion, the plaintiff stated that, in order to further ensure student confidentiality, the requested information could be furnished in one of three alternative ways: (1) by providing the names and addresses of the parents only; (2) by masking the names and providing only the addresses, which may be scrambled if necessary; or (3) by requiring the District to send out the plaintiff's mailings directly.

The defendant then filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing that the information did not constitute a "public record" under section 2(c) of FOIA. The defendant also maintained that the names and addresses revealed nothing about governmental affairs or official actions, would be of minimal value to the public, and would result in an unwarranted intrusion into the privacy of District parents. Finally, the defendant contended that the plaintiff could procure the desired parental input by other means, particularly, by soliciting parents directly.

Following a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant and denied the plaintiff's motion.

The sole issue on review is whether the names and addresses of the parents and students enrolled in District 219 must be produced under FOIA. FOIA is based upon the policy that persons must be given complete access to information "regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them as public officials and public employees***." 5 ILCS 140/1 (West 1994); American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (AFSCME) v. County of Cook, 136 Ill. 2d 334, 341, 555 N.E.2d 361, 144 Ill. Dec. 242 (1990). Like its federal counterpart, FOIA requires full disclosure unless the desired information is exempted under clearly delineated statutory language. Lieber v. Southern Illinois University, 279 Ill. App. 3d 553, 560, 664 N.E.2d 1155, 216 Ill. Dec. 227 (1996), appeal granted, 168 Ill. 2d 595, 671 N.E.2d 733 (1996); see also U.S. Department of Defense v. Federal Labor Relations Authority et al. (FLRA), 510 U.S. 487, 127 L. Ed. 2d 325, 114 S. Ct. 1006 (1994). At the same time, FOIA was not intended to be used to violate individual privacy, further a commercial enterprise, or disrupt the work of any public body. 5 ILCS 140/1 (West 1994); Blumenfeld v. Department of Professional Regulation, 263 Ill. App. 3d 981, 988, 636 N.E.2d 594, 201 Ill. Dec. 162 (1993). The burden rests with the agency seeking to avoid disclosure to demonstrate that the requested information falls within one of FOIA's narrowly-construed exemptions. AFSCME, 136 Ill. 2d at 341; Cooper v. Department of the Lottery, 266 Ill. App. 3d 1007, 1012, 640 N.E.2d 1299, 203 Ill. Dec. 926 (1994).

FOIA mandates that "each public body *** make available to any person for inspection or copying all public records, except as otherwise provided in Section 7 of this Act." 5 ILCS 140/3(a) (West 1994). The term "public body" under the Act expressly includes all school districts. 5 ILCS 140/2(a) (West 1994); Healey v. Teachers Retirement System, 200 Ill. App. 3d 240, 558 N.E.2d 766, 146 Ill. Dec. 803 (1990). Section 7(1)(b) of the Act states in relevant part as follows:

"(1) The following shall be exempt from inspection and copying:

(b) Information that, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless the disclosure is consented to in writing by the individual subjects of the information. The disclosure of information that bears on the public duties of public employees and officials shall not be considered an invasion of personal ...


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