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HomeEducationVilla Park school board violated Open Meetings Act, DuPage judge rules

Villa Park school board violated Open Meetings Act, DuPage judge rules



VILLA PARK – Concerned parents won a lawsuit last week against the Villa Park school district that closed the door to public participation in meetings, refusing to read comments submitted by concerned parents during meetings.

The DuPage County Circuit Court issued an order on October 11, 2022, finding that the District 45 School Board of Villa Park violated Illinois’ Open Meetings Act during several meetings in August and September 2021.

In advance of those meetings, the school district invited parents to submit any statements they wished to make during the meeting in writing rather than personally attend the meetings. However, the school district then refused to read those comments aloud, instead having a district representative “summarize” the comments received.

“The public was making a point about disagreeing with several policies, one of them being opposed to mandatory mask-wearing by children,” explained Erica Militello, referencing the August 3, 2022, meeting that the board shut down. “But the School Board refused to read the public’s comments during the meeting. The disaster is how this school board runs their meetings.”

The mask mandates are not the only issue provoking concern from District 45 parents.

Villa Park and Lombard Parents Union Leader Jessica Biczo pointed out that during school COVID shutdowns in 2020 and 2021, parents took on the mantle of educators, supervising remote learning from home. Biczo observed that for many parents, this was the first time they had come face to face with the district’s teaching practices and policies or been exposed to new curricula approved by the Illinois legislature, including advanced sex education, critical race theory, and a rewriting of American history. She notes that parents want to understand exactly what their children will be taught.

“It’s not just the subject matter,” shared Biczo. “It’s a question of how far this teaching doctrine will go. When you refuse to let public comments be public and immediately pass a $66,000 CRT [critical race theory] teacher training, you know the school district just didn’t want to hear from us. Some topics, like the approach to sex education, and loving your neighbor, are values that I want to instill and develop in my children. We maintain that is traditionally a parent’s role. I think the board should be concentrating on learning loss and socialization issues caused by non-stop mask wearing, staring at screens, and missing classmates. Kids are failing, dropping out and depressed.”

The lawsuit, filed by Dan Szczesney and Timothy Elliott of Rathe Woodward LLC, on behalf of Militello, detailed the various ways in which the District 45 Villa Park school board made it difficult or impossible for parents and other community members to provide input or raise concerns.

The court found that that board did indeed violate the law. In the court order, Judge Anne Hayes found that “the failure to read written comments in their entirety or affix full comments to the meeting minutes violated the Open Meetings Act.”

Read the Court Order issued October 11, 2022, by Judge Anne T. Hayes of the State of Illinois, County of DuPage in the Circuit County of the Eighteenth Judicial District, in Erica Militello v. Board of Education School District 45 Villa Park here [https://www.scribd.com/document/601156239/Illinois-Open-Meetings-Act-Order-in-Erica-Militello-v-Board-of-Education-School-District-45-Villa-Park].


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