Kendall County Court Judge Stephen Krentz ruled in favor of Parkview Christian Academy’s appeal for a temporary restraining order Sept. 29, writing in his decision that the Yorkville school had successfully raised a “fair question” against the Illinois State Board of Education’s revocation of the school’s recognition.
Parkview Christian, a K-12 school that operates two campuses in Yorkville, previously announced its intent to hold its school year without acknowledging the statewide mask mandate in a letter sent to ISBE on Aug. 23. Gov. JB Pritzker in early August declared a mask mandate, requiring all students and staff in public and private schools to wear masks while inside, regardless of vaccination status.
The ISBE responded by revoking Parkview Christian’s recognition Aug. 24. Consequences for the removal of the school’s recognition include eliminating the school’s ability to participate in Illinois High School Association and Illinois Elementary School Association sanctioned sports, blocking its participation in the Invest in Kids Act tax scholarship program, and ISBE will not recognize diplomas for graduating seniors.
Krentz’s ruling immediately restored the school’s recognition and halted the consequences imposed by ISBE, pending a court ruling over a preliminary injunction filed by Parkview contesting the removal of its recognition to be held later this year.
In explaining the legal standard that Parkview had to meet to prove its case, Krentz explained that a temporary restraining order, or TRO, is a “drastic, emergency which may issue only in exceptional circumstances and for a brief duration.”
“The purpose of a TRO is to allow the circuit court to preserve the status quo pending a hearing to determine whether it should grant a preliminary injunction,” Krentz wrote. “The plaintiff (Parkview) is not required to make out a case which would entitle him to judgment at trial; rather he only needs to show that he raises a ‘fair question’ about the existence of his right and that the court should preserve the status quo until the case can be decided on the merits.”
Parkview met this obligation, he said, by proving they had an ascertainable right, that they would suffer “irreparable harm” and that they would succeed “on the merits” of their claim – succeed on the fundamental issues of their appeal.
The school raised a fair question, Krentz wrote, “regarding alleged impairments to its statutory right to seek and maintain recognized status with the State Board of Education through compliance with its properly established and validly exercised administrative guidelines and procedures.”
The Illinois School Code “clearly provides” that private and nonpublic schools like Parkview have a “statutory right” to seek recognition through the state “through compliance with administrative guidelines and procedures as prescribed by the ISBE.”
In oral arguments, Plano attorney Carlo Colosimo argued that the state’s procedures for the revocation of Parkview’s recognition was more burdensome on the school, than the procedures in place for public schools, something that Krentz found had been successfully argued.
Assistant State’s Attorneys General Samantha Grund-Wick Ramasekera and Andrew Sarros argued that the governor’s mask mandate could not be set aside from the case as Parkview’s decision not to follow the mandate is why its status was revoked. The attorneys also argued that the emergency powers Ayala followed in revoking Parkview’s recognition had been put into place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the requirement of “irreparable harm,” a plaintiff must show that it “cannot be adequately compensated in damages or where damages cannot be measured,” Krentz wrote, adding that a plaintiff must show that “transgressions” are ongoing.
Colosimo argued that students and families at Parkview, as well as those seeking to enroll, would suffer harm through the inability to participate in IHSA and IESA sanctioned sports, an inability to participate in the Invest in Kids Act tax scholarship program, and that seniors would graduate with diplomas that would not be recognized by ISBE.
Again finding in favor of Parkview, Krentz wrote, “These types of damages are difficult to measure, they are not adequately compensated with monetary damages, and they are of a continuing nature.”
In addressing whether a case “succeeds on the merits,” Krentz wrote that “the court should not attempt to decide issues of fact or the ultimate merits required at the final hearing, but instead should consider whether the Plaintiff has raised a fair question as to the likelihood of success on the merits.”
“A plaintiff need only raise a fair question as to the existence of the right which it claims and lead the court to believe that it will probably be entitled to the relief quested if the proof sustains its allegations,” Krentz continued.
The school raised the “fair question,” Krentz wrote, in regards to whether the state legislature had granted sufficient authority to the ISBE to utilize the rules State Superintendent Carmen I. Ayala cited in revoking Parkview’s state recognition.
Colosimo also raised the “fair question” as to whether ISBE had exceeded its authority in delegating powers to Ayala to make final decisions, Krentz continued in his ruling, adding that representatives of ISBE had “failed to cite” any specific portion of the Illinois School Code that expressly granted the body the “authority” to implement emergency powers “delegated to themselves” during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In arguing the state’s regulations regarding the recognition of nonpublic schools as “more burdensome,” Colosimo noted that only nonpublic schools can have their recognition immediately pulled in an emergency situation, where no such provision exists for public schools.
Krentz also stated that Colosimo and Parkview had shown that public schools cannot have their recognition pulled “under any circumstance” without first being put on probation, where no such protection exists for nonpublic schools.
In addressing the emergency powers cited by ISBE, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, Krentz wrote, “No one could deny the harmful effects of contracting the COVID-19 illness are equally problematic in public and nonpublic schools.
“No rational argument can be made that the need to take emergency action against private schools is greater than it is in public schools.”
“In the end, I simply cannot reconcile how it is not more burdensome for Parkview to suffer the emergency revocation of their school status without any right to probation or hearing, knowing that just down the street, if Yorkville High School refused to comply with the mask mandate, the superintendent would be prevented from taking emergency action and would be required to put that school on probation and engage in a lengthy…process,” Krentz said when handing down his ruling Sept. 29.
Attorneys for Parkview and ISBE will return to the courtroom Oct. 7, for the scheduling of a preliminary hearing.
Source: The Daily Chronicle