Parents Sue

May 2021 View more

Supporters march down Webster Street during the Cross District Back to School rally in Naperville, Ill. on Sunday, March 14, 2021. (Mike Mantucca-Naperville Sun)

By Rafael Guerrero

A group of Indian Prairie parents have sued School District 204 alleging a coordinated “cover-up of COVID-19 planning” in violation of the state’s public meetings and records request laws.

The complaint, filed in DuPage County Circuit Court in March, charges Superintendent Adrian Talley and the school board illegally discussed the topic of reopening schools in closed sessions in violation of the Open Meetings Act. They also allege some records they requested through the Freedom of Information Act were wrongly denied.

“This goes beyond the COVID issue. This goes into transparency and other topics in the district’s future,” said Brad Wachter, a plaintiff in the case and an Indian Prairie parent.

District spokeswoman Janet Buglio said she could not comment because
it’s a pending legal matter. District lawyers have not yet filed a legal response in court.

According to the lawsuit, district officials and school board members have used some closed session meetings this school year to talk about topics required to be discussed in public.

“Upon information and belief, the School Board has made decisions on reopening the schools in District 204 away from public view and outside of the open school board meetings during the above closed meetings,”
the suit said.

As a result, the public’s ability to offer input before the board decisions were made was wrongly limited, the case said.

“Our premise is we believe in order to avoid public scrutiny and to prevent board members from being held accountable on the school reopening issue, they have deliberately not done the public’s business in the open session,” Wachter said.

The complaint cites nine violations of the state’s Open Meetings Act, including three closed sessions that have yet to happen. According to the complaint, it was expected the topic of reopening schools will be discussed privately at closed sessions in April and May.

“The School Board should have deliberated on the reopening of the schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic in a public forum due to its potential impact on the public. In fact, the School Board had a duty to discuss the reopening of the District 204 schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic in a public forum,” the complaint reads.

The lawsuit also alleges Indian Prairie denied Wachter three separate FOIA requests in January and February regarding email correspondence involving Talley and the school board members. Indian Prairie denied Wachter’s requests on the basis that they “imposed an undue burden,” the suit said. Wachter said he hopes to get these records request denials reversed as a result of the lawsuit.

Also listed as plaintiffs are six Indian Prairie parents who are part of the 204 Choice group, which has lobbied the district to fully reopen schools to any family who wants their children receiving in-person instruction.

This story originally appeared in our sister publication, the Naperville Sun, and is reprinted with permission.

Photo by Mike Mantucca/Naperville Sun