Cumberland Co., IL. (ECWd) –
In part 3 of this series, we will discuss the activities of the Cheer team “Board Members” and coaches in the days leading up to the letter forever ejecting the 11-year old girl from the cheer team based on her mom’s actions, not hers.
Article VIII, Section 1 of the Illinois Constitution states that “public funds, property or credit shall be used only for public purposes” – the use of public building and resources used to maintain those buildings, and the use of public property such as email and internet access must have a public purpose.
Examples of using public funds, property or credit improperly can be seen by looking at the situation with the former Mayor of LaHarpe in Hancock County who used a city backhoe for less than 30 minutes (here), or the former Mayor of Pekin, Illinois where he thought he could use the city credit card on a gambling boat (here), or the Comptroller in Dixon, Illinois (here). Although this situation does not rise to the level of these cases, it illustrates the how the use of public resources improperly can get people into trouble – even if there was no intent to violate the law.
Use of the School District’s Email Service:
The important things to take away from this part of the article is that emails to a public employee or officer are not, in and of themselves, a misuse of public property, however, the act of forwarding the emails to others in order to promote a private business (photos) and the act of discussing punitive actions against a cheerleader (with an “organization” not affiliated with the school), thru the School District’s email system (public property) are the acts that should be considered unauthorized use of public property (email service).
Several individuals involved as either Cheer Board Members or Coaches have used the email service of the School District for purposes that are not a public purpose. Are government email accounts public property? Ask a former top staffer for former Gov Quinn, who resigned her $110k/year job for sending a few emails (here).
Jodi Wingler, the photographer, sent emails to certain school teachers in reference to their photo purchases – there is nothing wrong with her sending those emails. However, these emails were forwarded, which constituted using school district email to sell photographs of the cheerleaders, which included encouraging others to purchase the photographs from the photographer – which equates to advertising and soliciting for a private business using public property. What was not proper, was for Becker to forward these emails to parents of the cheerleaders – that is considered using public property for a private purpose.
Traci Becker, board member, and school teacher decided to assist in soliciting for a fundraiser, using public funds or property (the email service) which also included reply emails – this could be a fundraiser for a school activity, but is worth noting.
Traci Becker used school email again to thank Kevin Maynard “for his advice and support” on presumably the JFL Cheer issue because she also talks about a meeting in her room, wrapping up the rest of the regular season, and getting info out on the playoffs. This conversation is not a “public purpose” – it is a private purpose dealing with the cheer team who has no formal organization or insurance.
Traci Becker also used school district email to converse with Scarlette McBride in their collusion (here) to eject an 11-year old girl from the cheer team, forever. They emailed the “2nd Letter” to each other.
McBride also sent an urgent message to Becker, at the school, and to Amy Baker at her First Christian Church of Neoga email address, asking that their emails from the old private email account be transferred to the new one. Since all three of these people are board members of the cheer team, I suspect this was about the cheer board emails.
Using Public Property to Conduct Unauthorized Activities
Now for the use of school facilities. The Illinois School Code does allow a school to let “Community Organizations” use its facilities as long as it does not affect the property or liability of the school district:
(105 ILCS 5/10-20.41) Sec. 10-20.41. Use of facilities by community organizations. School boards are encouraged to allow community organizations to use school facilities during non-school hours. If a school board allows a community organization to use school facilities during non-school hours, the board must adopt a formal policy governing the use of school facilities by community organizations during non-school hours. The policy shall prohibit such use if it interferes with any school functions or the safety of students or school personnel or affects the property or liability of the school district. (Source: P.A. 95-308, eff. 8-20-07; 95-876, eff. 8-21-08; 96-328, eff. 8-11-09.)
So, “if” the CJFLCD was a community organization (which it is not), the school is within their rights to allow the use of its facilities. If not, then the school probably shouldn’t be letting them use it, especially if they cannot produce insurance, which could affect the liability of the school district which could potentially impact every taxpayer in the district.
Use of the facilities in contradiction to the school code constitutes unauthorized use of the facilities. This includes using the classroom for meetings, gyms for practice, and football fields for games.
One cannot avoid their obligations to pay registration fees, submit annual reports, and purchase appropriate insurance, while at the same time enjoy the benefit of the doubt that they are a “community organization” and reap the rewards, use of facilities, that comes with being a legitimate organization.
I know, people say we are picking on cheerleaders. This is not about cheerleaders. This is about adults running the operation. How could this school ever defend not allowing other “organizations” to use its facilities, should some unsavory characters want to use them?
What if someone got hurt? The school would be held liable for allowing the use of its facilities.