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Hill v. Galesburg Community Unit School District 205

February 19, 2004

[5] JOSHUA T. HILL AND J.T. HILL, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
GALESBURG COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT 205, A SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 9th Judicial Circuit Knox County, Illinois No. 02-L-3 Honorable Stephen C. Mathers Judge, Presiding

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Lytton

[8]  Plaintiffs, Joshua Hill and his father, J.T. Hill, sued Galesburg Community Unit School District (school district), alleging that the school district violated the Eye Protection in School Act (Eye Protection Act), which requires that students wear eye protection when participating in certain activities. 105 ILCS 115/1 (West 2002). The school district filed a motion to dismiss alleging that it did not violate the Eye Protection Act and that, in any case, it was immune from liability under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act. 745 ILCS 10/1-101 et seq. (West 2002). The trial court determined that the school district violated the Eye Protection Act, but that it was immune. We affirm in part, reverse in part and remand.

[9]  Joshua Hill was a student attending Galesburg Senior High School. He was performing an experiment in chemistry class when a glass beaker exploded, causing an injury to his right eye. Joshua was not wearing eye protection at the time of the explosion.

[10]   Plaintiffs filed a four count amended complaint. Counts I and III alleged negligence by the school district, and counts II and IV alleged willful and wanton conduct by the school district. The school district filed a combined motion to dismiss pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2002) and 735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2002). The trial court initially dismissed the willful and wanton counts and denied the motion to dismiss the negligence counts. Plaintiffs then filed an amended complaint, and the school district renewed its motion to dismiss. The trial court granted the section 2-619 motion, dismissing all four counts based on section 2-201 of the Tort Immunity Act. 745 ILCS 10/2-201 (West 2002).

[11]   Our review of a section 2-619 dismissal is de novo. Arteman v. Clinton Community School District No. 15, 198 Ill. 2d 475, 479 (2002).

[12]   I. The Eye Protection in School Act

[13]   We first consider whether the Eye Protection Act imposes a duty on (1) the school district to provide eye protection, and (2) the teacher to ensure that students are wearing eye protection before proceeding with the experiment. The Eye Protection Act provides in relevant part:

[14]  
"Every student, teacher and visitor is required to wear an industrial quality eye protective device when participating in or observing any of the following courses in schools, colleges and universities:

[15]   ***

[16]  
(b) chemical or combined chemical-physical laboratories involving caustic or explosive chemicals or hot liquids or solids.
[17]  
Such devices may be furnished for all students and teachers, and shall be furnished for all visitors to such classrooms and laboratories." 105 ILCS 115/1 (West 2002).

[18]   A. Duty to Provide Eye Protection

[19]   Our supreme court has held that school districts have a common law duty to provide safety equipment to students when engaged in activities that may be dangerous. Gerrity v. Beatty, 71 Ill. 2d 47, 52 (1978); Lynch v. Board of Education of Collinsville Community Unit District No. 10, 82 Ill. 2d 415, 434 (1980); Palmer v. Mount Vernon Township High School District 201, 169 Ill. 2d 551, 557 (1996). The Eye Protection Act, however, specifically states that eye protection "may be furnished for all students and teachers." (Emphasis added.) 105 ILCS 115/1 (West 2002).

[20]   The primary rule of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. Heinrich v. Libertyville High Shcool, 186 Ill. 2d 381, 387 (1999). The best indicator of legislative intent is the language that the legislature used in the statute. In re Ben S., 331 Ill. App. 3d 471, 472 (2002). Legislative use of the word "may" indicates a permissive or directory ...


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