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09/30/97 JOEL R. v. BOARD EDUCATION MANNHEIM SCHOOL

September 30, 1997

JOEL R., A MINOR, BY HIS AUNT AND NEXT FRIEND, ERICKA SALAZAR, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF MANNHEIM SCHOOL DISTRICT 83, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, ET AL., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable John K. Madden, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication November 26, 1997.

The Honorable Justice Tully delivered the opinion of the court. Rakowski and Frossard, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tully

The Honorable Justice TULLY delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, Joel R. (hereinafter Joel), a minor, by his aunt and next friend, Ericka Salazar (hereinafter Ericka), filed this action in the circuit court of Cook County seeking an injunction prohibiting defendants, the Board of Education of Mannheim School District 83, Cook County, Illinois, John F. Ludolph, in his official capacity as Superintendent of Mannheim School District 83, Dominick Cupuro, in his official capacity as President of the Board of Education of Mannheim School District 83 and Marilyn Finesilver, in her official capacity as Principal of Mannheim Middle School, from barring Joel from enrolling in and attending classes at Mannheim Middle School on a tuition-free basis. On November 15, 1996, the circuit court entered a preliminary injunction permitting Joel's tuition-free enrollment at Mannheim Middle School. On November 27, 1996, the circuit court entered an order converting the preliminary injunction into a permanent injunction. It is from the latter order that defendants now appeal to this court pursuant to section 6 of article VI of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, ยง 6) and Supreme Court Rule 301 (155 Ill. 2d R. 301).

For the reasons which follow, we affirm.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Joel is a United States citizen who was born in El Paso, Texas. See U.S. Const. amend. XIV ("All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."). On July 27, 1996, 13-year-old Joel arrived in Melrose Park, Illinois from Mexico to live on a full-time basis with his maternal aunt Ericka. Ericka has assumed the role of a parent to Joel and provides for all of his needs.

On August 20, 1996, Ericka went to Mannheim Middle School, a public school located in Mannheim School District 83. Ericka spoke to Angie Latragna, a bilingual teacher at the school. After presenting Joel's birth certificate, Latragna asked Ericka if she had anything that would prove she had legal custody of Joel. When Ericka responded that she did not, Latragna told her that, pursuant to District 83's "Registration Checklist," she needed legal custody of her nephew. Latragna then instructed Ericka to obtain a notarized statement from Joel's parents granting Ericka custody of their son, and authorizing her to represent Joel before District 83.

Ericka followed Latragna's instructions and obtained a notarized document executed by Joel's parents before a judge in Mexico which granted Ericka custody over Joel.

On September 9, 1996, Ericka returned to Mannheim Middle School and attempted to enroll Joel. However, Ericka was informed by a secretary that the Mexican document was not sufficient to enroll Joel because it did not establish, through an American court, that Ericka was Joel's legal guardian. Ericka next spoke to Marilyn Finesilver, the school principal. Finesilver informed Ericka that she could not admit Joel because anyone could obtain a notarized letter and that Ericka needed to obtain legal guardianship in an American court. In response, Ericka explained that Joel's parents were in Mexico and that her sister, Joel's mother, was a Mexican citizen with no permission to enter or reside in the United States. Finesilver responded that if Joel's mother was not a legal resident of the United States, he could not be admitted to Mannheim Middle School. Finesilver then queried Ericka as to why Ericka was trying to register Joel in school. Ericka responded, "Because I live in the district and he needs to go to school." Finesilver then stated that she could not enroll Joel in the school and Ericka left the building.

After Ericka left, Finesilver telephoned John Ludolph, the district superintendent, explained the series of events and asked if she had made a proper residency determination. Ludolph told Finesilver that she had made a proper residency determination. On September 12, 1996, Ludolph spoke to Ericka by telephone and told her that he had made a determination in accord with that of Finesilver. Neither Ludolph nor Finesilver informed Ericka of her right to appeal their decision to the district's board of education, as was required by the district's residency policy.

On September 23, 1996, Ericka, along with a congressman working on her behalf, met with Ludolph and an attorney for the district, Todd Faulkner. At the meeting, Ludolph and Faulkner explained that they were denying Joel tuition-free admission on the basis of their reading of Turner v. Board of Education, 54 Ill. 2d 68, 294 N.E.2d 264 (1973).

On October 11, 1996, another conference was held concerning Joel's residency. Ericka, Ericka's attorney, Joel, Finesilver, Ludolph, Faulkner, among others, were present at the meeting. During the meeting, Ericka and Joel put forth evidence of Joel's living conditions in Mexico and the circumstances surrounding Joel's return to the United States. However, Ludolph deemed these reasons not sufficiently credible to overcome his initial determination that Joel's sole purpose for residing in the ...


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