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Board’s Failure to Keep Record Results in Court’s Reversal of Board’s Decision

K-12 Education Publications

A recent Illinois Appellate Court decision highlights the importance of keeping a complete record of board proceedings that are subject to judicial review. In Board of Education of Kewanee School District 229 v. The Regional Board of School Trustees, the court reviewed a decision to grant a detachment provision by the Regional Board of School Trustees. Because the Regional Board did not file a full record as required by the Illinois Administrative Review Law, the court reversed the Board’s decision. The decision, which was based not on the merits of the Board’s decision but on the inadequacy of its records, is an important reminder to boards of the types of information that must be maintained in a record for it to be adequate for judicial review.

This case arose when, in 2015, a group of twelve residents in District 229 filed a petition for a school district boundary change. The group sought to detach 2010 acres of land from District 229 and annex it to a neighboring district, District 340. The Board initially denied the petition, but on petition by the requesters, convened a new hearing on detachment. The District challenged the Board’s jurisdiction to hold a new hearing, but the Board ultimately did so and reversed its earlier decision, granting the group’s detachment petition. The District filed a petition for administrative review under the Administrative Review Act, which normally would require the Board to file a complete record of the administrative proceeding at issue with the circuit court. The Board could not do so because it did not have such a record, so the District asked the court to rule in its favor by default because of the lack of an adequate record for review.

The Appellate Court sided with the District. The Court acknowledged the School Code does not require a board to keep a record of the hearing on a petition for rehearing in a detachment case. However, the Court noted that it is “well-established” under the Administrative Review Act and related Illinois Supreme Court rules that a court must review a complete record of the administrative proceedings at issue on judicial review. The Court said the record must include evidence heard by the Board and the finding and decisions the Board made—minutes on the hearing alone are not enough to comply with the statutory requirements of the Administrative Review Act.

Although this decision related to a detachment proceeding, the principles outlined in the case are applicable to any board whose proceedings are subject to the Administrative Review Act. The Appellate Court’s decision underscores the importance of maintaining a thorough record of any proceeding subject to such review. For questions and concerns regarding board policies, procedures, and compliance with the law, contact any Franczek attorney.