Appeals court: Shriver Center's FOIA request for school cop misconduct reports too burdensome

By Charmaine Little | Dec 19, 2018

Chicago Board of Education   Youtube screenshot

CHICAGO – A state appeals court has upheld the dismissal of an attempt to force the Chicago Board of Education to turn over documents and records concerning complaints the Chicago Public Schools may have received concerning police or security at Chicago's schools, as part of an effort by a social action group to expose what it believes is school discipline that contributes to the "school-to-prison pipeline."

On Dec. 3, a three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court upheld a Cook County judge's dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

Justice Mary L. Mikva wrote the Dec. 3 opinion and justices Daniel J. Pierce and John C. Griffin concurred.

Shriver is a nonprofit legal and policy advocacy organization for low-income individuals and families, the opinion states, and it sought records "because of its concern that student discipline and arrests contribute to a school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately affects minority children."


Illinois Appellate Justice Mary Mikva   Illinoiscourts.gov

The Shriver Center filed requests for those records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA.)

After being denied its requests for records three times on the grounds that its requests were unduly burdensome, Shriver accused the Board of Education of willfully violating the FOIA, and sued, asking the court to order the Board to turn over the desired records.

In its first request submitted in June 2016, Shriver requested complaints the school district received from 2012 to 2016 relating to police officers or security guards positioned inside the district's schools. The Board denied this request and said the district did not maintain or generate overall reports regarding complaints made to the district with police officers in the school. It suggested Shriver submit a more-specific request.

Shriver then sent its second request to the Board the same month and asked for any speculated employee misconduct relating to school police officers that were entered in the VERIFY system in 2014. The Board denied the request and said the requiest was extremely burdensome as the VERIFY system doesn’t separate reports with in-school police officer incidents. It said it would take hundreds of hours at the very least to compile the request. 

The third request was also submitted in June 2016, this time asking for alleged employee misconduct reports entered into the VERIFY system in 2014. The Board again denied this request, citing again it would take hundreds of hours to review the reports.

Mikva wrote in the opinion that, while Shriver said the Board took longer than the allotted five days to fulfill the request, the Board's time extensions were justified. Mikva agreed with the Board that to fulfill Shriver’s request would have been unnecessarily taxing.

“There can be no real dispute that the extensions taken by the Board were proper” considering it would have taken much longer than five days for the requests to be met, the opinion states.

Mikva also agreed with the lower court that fulfilling the request would be too much to ask of the Board.

“The only way to isolate employee misconduct reports involving in-school officers would be to manually review and redact those 600 employee misconduct reports, work it explained would take hundreds of hours,” the opinion states.

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Organizations in this Story

Chicago Board or Education Chicago Public Schools Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois First District Appellate Court Sargent Shriver National Center On Poverty Law

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