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Makindu v. Illinois High School Association

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

May 14, 2015

RODRIGUE CEDA MAKINDU, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ILLINOIS HIGH SCHOOL ASSOCIATION, Defendant-Appellant

Page 183

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 184

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 14-MR-172. Honorable David R. Akemann, Judge, Presiding.

David J. Bressler, Melissa Lynott Mitchell, Melanie J. Chico, and Jonathan A. Ibarra, all of Dykema Gossett PLLC, of Lisle, for appellant.

Judd M. Lofchie, of Judd Lofchie & Associates, Inc., and Thomas G. Olp, both of Aurora, and John F. Hayden, of Port Angeles, Washington, for appellee.

Hutchinson and Burke, Justices concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Page 185

SCHOSTOK, PRESIDING JUSTICE.

[¶1] The instant controversy arose after the defendant, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), amended one of its bylaws, which had the effect of preventing the plaintiff, Rodrigue Ceda Makindu, from participating on his high school's basketball team. The plaintiff filed a complaint and sought a preliminary injunction in the circuit court of Kane County, asserting that the IHSA's amended bylaw violated his right to equal protection. The trial court granted the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, and the IHSA appeals from that order. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] The plaintiff was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996. On October 2, 2012, he came to the United States on an F-1 student visa. He arrived with the help of James Schmidt, who is currently the athletic director of the Plano schools. The plaintiff began attending Mooseheart Child City and School, Inc. (Mooseheart). Mooseheart is a residential school that the Moose Fraternal Organization founded over 100 years ago to help students in need. All students reside on campus.

[¶4] Mooseheart is a member of the IHSA. The IHSA has just over 800 member schools. According to its constitution, the IHSA exists to " provide leadership for the development, supervision and promotion of interscholastic competitions and other activities in which the members engage." The IHSA is administered by a board of directors and its executive director, currently Martin Hickman. Hickman's duties include interpreting IHSA bylaws and making eligibility determinations for students to participate in IHSA activities, including interscholastic sports.

[¶5] In 2012, the plaintiff, through Mooseheart, sought a determination from Hickman regarding the plaintiff's eligibility to participate in IHSA activities. Hickman informed the plaintiff that, under the

Page 186

current bylaws, the plaintiff would not be able to participate until October 2, 2013.

[¶6] In 2013, the IHSA amended bylaw 3.034.3. The amended bylaw provided that students who were not participating in " an approved student exchange program" or living with a parent or guardian would not be able to participate in IHSA activities. On October 10, 2013, Hickman informed Mooseheart that, based on the amended bylaw, the plaintiff would not be eligible to participate in interscholastic sports for the duration of his time attending high school.

[¶7] The plaintiff appealed Hickman's decision to the IHSA board of directors. On December 16, 2013, the board affirmed Hickman's decision.

[¶8] On February 26, 2014, the plaintiff filed a complaint and a motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO), seeking to set aside Hickman's decision and allow the plaintiff to play interscholastic sports. On February 28, 2014, the trial court denied the plaintiff's motion for a TRO.

[¶9] On October 1, 2014, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint. The plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that the amended bylaw violated his equal protection rights under both the United States and the Illinois constitutions. U.S. Const., amend. XIV; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 2.

[¶10] On October 27, 2014, the plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary and a permanent injunction to prevent the IHSA from implementing amended bylaw 3.034.3, thereby allowing him to participate in interscholastic sports for his senior year.

[¶11] On November 21, 2014, the trial court conducted a hearing on the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. The plaintiff, Schmidt, and Hickman testified. The parties also submitted several exhibits. That evidence is summarized below.

[¶12] IHSA bylaws 3.000 through 3.170 govern the eligibility of students to participate in interscholastic sports. Bylaw 3.030 addresses residency and states a " fundamental principle" that " [h]igh school sports are best controlled and conducted fairly when students reside full time with their parents and attend high school in the district in which they reside with their parents." Based on that principle, the bylaws require a student to reside full time with his or her custodial parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to be granted eligibility at either a public school or a private school. Additionally, there are restrictions on eligibility following a transfer from one school to another. Generally, a student is ineligible if the transfer is not in conjunction with a change of residence by both the student and his or her custodial parent(s) or guardian(s). The bylaws are intended to reinforce the principle that high school students should live with their parents.

[¶13] Bylaw 3.034.3 concerns the eligibility of " international and foreign exchange students." The bylaw was originally created as an exception to the general residency and transfer requirements, in order to allow international students the opportunity to participate in interscholastic sports during their stay in the United States. International students who are on J-1 visas and who meet the requirements of bylaw 3.034.3 are granted immediate eligibility to participate in sports for one calendar year ...


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