May/June 2013

Robert M. Cole was the first executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards, serving from 1943 to 1969. He authored this article for the September 24, 1956, issue of the School Board News Bulletin. His ideas are consistent with the way IASB continues to work with school boards around policies, rules and regulations.

The Illinois Association of School Boards has consistently urged school boards to establish written policies, rules and regulations. We have done so for several reasons.

The first and foremost reason is that the School Code (Chap. 122 Sec. 6-20 — Illinois Revised Statutes 1955) specifically charges school boards with the mandatory duty “To adopt and enforce all necessary rules for the management and government of the public schools of their district.” Our courts interpret this section by repeatedly saying it is assumed that boards have carried out this provision of the law and failure to do so is fatal.

The second reason for having written policies is because they are fundamental to the morale of the whole school system — teachers, non-teachers, pupils, parents and school boards. Any school board that will first set its own house in order by letting everyone know the conditions upon which it will operate commands the confidence and respect of all who work with them.

The third reason for having written policies is that they clarify for all concerned the educational aims of the district and the methods by which they may be achieved. In addition, a set of policies, rules and regulations put together into a single document establishes an orderly process of development and a common source for procedure where all may look for guidance. Bringing previous board actions together under appropriate headings eliminates contradictions and misunderstandings.

There are several points about policies, rules and regulations which we believe are basically important. While the law says that there shall be rules established, yet on the other hand the record must not be cluttered with a lot of unnecessary rules. There is no need to have rules just for rules’ sake. A rule is good only if it serves a purpose.

Another point is that policies, rules and regulations serve best only if they are stated in a positive manner so as to accomplish a positive purpose. Too many times there are included items that belong strictly to administrative detail and have no place in a policy statement.

Finally, it must be understood that policies are subject to change. Therefore, they must be considered flexible to the extent that they may be changed, altered or revoked whenever conditions warrant, and that new policies may be added as need for them arises. Whenever one of these occurs, thought and consideration must be given to the date upon which they will become effective. Ample notice of changes or additions will cause them to be more readily accepted with good grace by those who are affected.

We believe there is a distinction between a policy and a rule or regulation. It is not always easy to recognize the difference; however, as a general rule, the school board usually develops policies while rules and regulations are developed by the staff with approval by the board. Experience has shown that participation in the development of rules and regulations by those who have worked under them will mean more than rules and regulations developed in any other manner.