Dianne Barrett Case to Resume in September After Short Hearing
Judge Thomas Dudgeon did not rule Monday on the motion for sanctions against the board member by District 86.
Arguments on a motion for sanctions against Hinsdale Township High School District 86 board member Dianne Barrett were scheduled for Sept. 24 during a brief status hearing Monday in Barrett's transitioning lawsuit against District 86.
The sanctions would demand that Barrett and her attorneys pay for legal costs accumulated by the district related only to a May 15 hearing in Wheaton, since Barrett's side made a case for "unfettered" student-record access by board members despite the fact that Judge Thomas Dudgeon had already ruled against Barrett on that issue in November.
Executive director Natalie Brouwer Potts of the Center for Open Government, the organization supplying Barrett's counsel, said on May 15 that she thinks the district’s motion for sanctions is “ridiculous” and not legally supported.
“The plaintiff shouldn’t be penalized for zealously pleading her case,” Potts said.
Dudgeon has been reassigned to family court and, after ruling on the motion for sanctions, will pass the case along to Judge Paul Fullerton, his replacement in chancery court. Fullerton will take on a case that has a new focus and is not showing any signs that a conclusion is imminent.
Dudgeon cited the Illinois Student Records Act (ISRA) when he ruled against Barrett in November. ISRA, he said, does not reserve a board member's right to unredacted copies of all district records, such as those containing private student information.
By filing a third amended complaint against District 86, which will need to be submitted next week, Barrett is now challenging a board policy approved in March demanding that all board members who request records not available to the public demonstrate how those records will help them fulfill their duty as a board member.
Dudgeon indicated at the May 15 hearing that because of the policy’s timing, arguments against it would be considered even though it deals with a similar issue of board member access to records.
“I think this is a new issue because it concerns a policy directive adopted by the board clearly after [the November ruling],” Dudgeon said.
Potts said she thinks the new policy gives board members even fewer rights than they had when Barrett’s suit was first filed over access to un-redacted special education documents.