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D86 Board President Again Going After Website Critical of District

The website called Hinsdale High School posts often-critical opinions and was formerly the campaign site of board member Richard Skoda and two other candidates.

Board President Dennis Brennan’s is requesting board permission to demand that a website critical of the district cease and desist using its current name, but any new reasoning he has won't be explained until next month.

Brennan was not present at Monday’s District 86 Board of Education meeting, which featured an action item in the agenda’s president’s report that if passed would have authorized Brennan to present a written cease and desist notification to “individuals historically associated" with the website titled Hinsdale High Schools, according to the item’s wording.

Hinsdale High Schools, found at www.hinsdalehighschools.com, publishes anonymously written posts that are often critical of District 86’s administration and board.

“Many have asked why we do not put names on our posts,” the site’s welcome page reads. “The reason is that our posts are about issues - not about individuals.  Judge us for the ideas expressed here - not whether you like who we are.”

During the run-up to the 2011 school board election, the site was listed as the website of The Final Three slate of candidates—Bruce Davidson, Richard Skoda and Claudia Manley—in their campaign emails.

Skoda was the only one of the three to win a spot on the board.

Since Brennan was not at Monday’s meeting to explain the reasoning behind the request, , the board members present tabled the item for further discussion at their Sept. 10 committee of the whole meeting.

Questions asked by board members Monday gave a preview of what the future discussion might sound like when Brennan is present.

Skoda cited the lack of board approval on last year’s request as reasoning to dismiss this one.

“If it wasn’t worth doing a year ago … why are we moving forward now?” Skoda asked.

Kay Gallo echoed her statements from last year's discussion, again citing the Internet's "lawless" nature and the anonymity of the site as the speed bumps she sees.

“How would we go about telling this nebulous to cease and desist?” she asked. “Is there some kind of law that has changed that would give us a little more teeth?”

She said she hopes to get that answered when Brennan, who is a lawyer, is present.

Monday’s meeting was led by Michael Kuhn, who seemed in favor of granting Brennan’s request based on Board Policy 8.22, which addresses the use of district names by outside organizations.

“Personally I think that there’s many associations using our name and not asking for permission,” he said. “We have a policy in place and I think we need to go forward with it.”

As Patch reported last year, a search of the database of The Internet Network Information Center (InterNIC), operated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), showed that HinsdaleHighSchools.com was registered through GoDaddy.com

The person registering the site used a service called Domains by Proxy, Inc., to anonymously record the domain name.

Here are some comments from Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Patch's Facebook page regarding this story:

Mickey: "Well, I had never heard of the site until now. So by trying to shut it down, it just gets more publicity."

Joel: "Umm.. 1st amendment D86? Good luck with that."

Proud Teacher August 22, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Joe -- I visited the site's home and welcome pages as well. Noticed that they alert - in red - to a Disclaimer on the home page, and the full disclaimer on the welcome page makes it highly explicit that the site neither speaks for, or is connected in any official way, with the District. The site uses purely generic terms in its name. It does not use "District" or "86" or even "Township" (which, by that quaint designation, establishes some uniqueness). The site uses only "Hinsdale" (a name the Village of Hinsdale has never claimed as proprietary), and "high school" - a pretty generic term that actually includes the Hinsdale Adventist Academy (another entity that has not complained). Mr. Kuhn points out there are a number of violators. Another item on the agenda concerned the upcoming election (appointment of individuals to receive nominating petitions); wonder if that has anything to do with Mr. Brennan's refreshed interest in the site?
Joe O'Donnell (Editor) August 22, 2012 at 08:51 PM
All valid points, Proud Teacher, with regards to the website and I'm sure they will be addressed, or at least brought up, in some form during the next discussion. (Can't speak to the election item at this point.)
Lennie Jarratt August 23, 2012 at 01:27 AM
There are many other websites that use part of the school district name in other areas. There really is no problem with that. It just seems this is more about the content than the name. Mr. Brennan might want to read the first amendment again to remind himself that we still have freedom of speech in this country.
Robert Devine August 23, 2012 at 02:53 PM
I went to the website and at first glance it appears to be "District 86 sponsored". Large picture of the recent construction with the south HS entrance in the background. There is a discalimer in red - "who we are not", but: It is off to the side. Is it small in comparison to the Articles or post which are directly under the picture. Someone that "Googled" Hinsdale Schools could easily overlook the link because it really does not stand out. When you read through the posts - they are one sided. Think the board is right to protect the "Hinsdale High School" name. The group behind the website also has the right to their opinion, but should representt the website as that - concern district 86 parents and citizens - not the district itself.
William Regnery August 23, 2012 at 03:42 PM
As a parent of District 86 students and 3rd generation Hinsdale resident, I wanted to thank Mr. Brennan for bringing www.hinsdalehighschools.com to my attention. I found the site to include very thoughtful and well reasoned criticisms of current Board practices, decisions, and members. I have, in fact, made it my new homepage. I hope to rely on it for inspiration to become more involved in the Board election process this spring with hopes of seating a school board uninvolved with attempting to silence the first amendment rights of critics but instead with the courage to tackle the substantive cost saving measures (namely the teacher’s contract) needed to alleviate what, in my opinion, is the unreasonable property tax burden for District 86 residents
Rich Brandeis August 24, 2012 at 02:17 PM
I find it extremely hypocritical that the authors of this blog choose to hide behind the curtain of anonymity thus eliminating the need for facts to back up any accusations, yet they require any comments by readers include their name and e-mail address. Pretty gutless
Proud Teacher August 24, 2012 at 05:26 PM
So, then, you judge the veracity of facts by the identity of the individual purveyor? In fact, the site makes clear that commenters need not identify themselves by name, and they do not publish e-mail addresses (it is said, though I wouldn't know, that e-mail addresses do not necessarily reveal individual identities).
frank August 25, 2012 at 05:11 AM
COMMON SENSE does not need a name. All school districts have the same problems and issues. Came upon tyhis article by chance and what little that I hae read, this Brennan seems like areal mpiece of WORK. Seeing that he is a lawyer, that probably eplains it. Good Luck Residents. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Sue Pircon August 25, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Dear Proud Teacher, YES, in fact I do judge the veracity of the facts by the identity of the individual, as everyone should. Writers pride themselves in a having a byline on an article that is backed up by good investigative journalism based on the truth. I agree with Mr. Brandeis, the folks producing this blog are pretty gutless hiding behind fake names to avoid a healthy debate on the issues. But knowing that this web site was the official campaign web site for Richard Skoda, Bruce Davidson and Claudia Manley for the District 86 election, it is easy to conclude who the author may be. And speaking of gutless, I believe The Patch requires commentors to provide an actual name to their accounts. So Proud Teacher, doesn't this policy also apply to you?
Proud Teacher August 26, 2012 at 09:00 PM
"YES, in fact I do judge the veracity of the facts by the identity of the individual" Then, of course, you should avoid sites like the one in question - which require you to assess the truth of factual assertions for yourself. You who accept the truth as spoken by the likes of Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz deserve the government we have in Washington DC right now. Your personal attack on the site (by calling it "gutless" and associating it with individuals) proves the site's position. If you argued policy, instead of personality, I suppose they would debate you. I gather they don't want another DailyKos/HuffintonPost mud-slinging site. You challenge my adhering to Patch disclosure policy - next you'll want my tax returns, I guess. Sorry - I'm interested in the policy debate, not what Rachel Maddow tells me to think.
Sue Pircon August 27, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Proud Teacher, I have always avoided this website because I do follow the business of District 86 and I know the facts. This website likes to distort those facts. I find it interesting that your argument for remaining anonymous is because you fear personal retaliation for your comments and opinions. Yet your site repeatly makes those same personal attacks on board members. As for the association of this site with former D86 candidates, if you read the article it is clear that this site was orginated by Skoda, Davidson and Manley for use in their campaign. And the term "gutless" was used by Mr. Brandeis, I was merely agreeing with his point. I would be happy to debate policy with you anytime, but then again I don't even know if you live in the district. Since you do not reveal your identity, you could be from anywhere and perhaps be a retired high school teacher looking to pass his time blogging!
Lennie Jarratt August 27, 2012 at 12:45 AM
I choose to present my school district research under my name. I am then harassed and bullied consistently by those who favor the corruption that continues in the Grayslake School District. I do not blame the anonymous website postings one bit for not wanting to be harassed. You can present facts with out names because the documents prove the case.
Bruno Behrend August 27, 2012 at 12:46 AM
The reason people don't want to put their names on these sites is quite simple. They don't want their families and (perhaps) children, targeted, ostracized, shunned or bullies by the mean-spirited defenders of the status quo. These defenders support every dime of waste and abuse spent by districts, no matter how absurd ($1M football grass upgrades, salary give-aways, rich, opaque, contract clauses for needless admin and support positions, etc.). The moment someone puts their name on any criticism of their district, they are treated like dirt by the greedy system and its supporters. Given the level of abuse they will be subjected to, one can't blame folks for wanting to remain anonymous, . When I fought the referendum here in River Forest, I put my name and phone number on all my material. I still have the answering machine messages from the hysterical bleating crew of detractors, some of whom feebly tried to complain to the city about my yard, work being done without a permit, and a whole litany of lies and abuse. This is the moral nature of the defenders of the status quo. My suggestion is to come out from anonymity and help expose them for the people they are. Every school district is a mini-Enron, and we need to rally support for the people appropriately exposing them as such. As for the case at hand, look at the nature of the overpaid bureaucrat trying to shut down local citizens exercising their wholly appropriate (and necessary) job of oversight.
Proud Teacher August 27, 2012 at 01:15 AM
"I find it interesting that your argument for remaining anonymous is because you fear personal retaliation for your comments and opinions." Actually, Sue, I have never made ANY argument for remaining anonymous - and if I had, it would not be fear of retaliation. As for the site's argument - it can be found above in Joe's article. Where DID you get this fear-of-retaliation thing? Interesting you would raise it. Also interesting that once you are called on using personal pejoratives you have someone else to blame - like Obama blaming Bush. I, too, would like to debate on policy. But your bent to personal attack is problematic. Kind of takes the "policy" out of "politics". You are right that I am a certified teacher - impressed with my ability to communicate, eh? You ever latch on to a (real) policy issue you want to debate with a conservative-oriented educator, have Joe let me know. Just knock three times and whisper low.
Sue Pircon August 27, 2012 at 12:16 PM
It was not your ability to communicate that identifies you as a teacher, it was your "stage name", Proud Teacher. Sorry, but not tough investigative work. I would be happy to talk policy with you, we are probably on the same page on many issues. However, this conversation was about a website that presents one-sided issues while remaining anonymous thus not allowing a discussion the validity of the facts presented. Your continued accusation that I am "bent on personal attacks" is interesting. It is hard to make a personal attack when you don't even know the person! You say it is "problematic", yet you defend an anonymous website that continously makes personal attacks on the D86 Board Members. As far as asking Joe to reveal your identity, no thanks. The knocking and whispering thing is not my style.
Proud Teacher August 27, 2012 at 05:18 PM
"Your continued accusation that I am "bent on personal attacks" is interesting." Pejoratives like "gutless" - you used the word even though you blame someone else for it - is pretty much a personal attack. Same for naming individuals, when you admit having no proof they are involved with the site. Yes - those kinds of personal attacks are problematic when I do not see evidence of a policy position. You are clearly antagonistic toward three individuals, but do not identify how you think the site violates District 86 proprietary interests. When the site-in-question refers to individuals, it seems to be in connection with their offices, and a specific policy discussion. Frankly, I am with you - it would be more consistent for them to avoid names, but it is not the "Proud Teacher" website. Sorry to have dated myself a bit with that "knock three times and whisper low" - the start of a lyric which concludes, "that you and I were sent by Joe". Get it? The lyric was pretty well known once upon a time, and is from Hernando's Hideaway. Obscure now, I guess.
Sue Pircon August 27, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I believe that given the fact that it was Skoda, Davidson and Manley that orginated the site is proof enough that they are somewhat associated with it, otherwise why would they allow another individual to take over a site they started? Just forming a conclusion based on that evidence. Doesn't seem all that far fetched does it? My position is clear...this site is an anonymous blog that presents distorted facts. Not hard to present evidence of that. Just look at the latest post claiming that students reported to school the first day among enormous piles of dirt and large construction equipment. I was at Hinsdale Central the first day of school, no hulking CAT or enormous pile of dirt and school has been in session a week and they have yet to correct the post. I never claimed that the site violated any District policies, I am more interested in personal responsibility for telling the truth. That is just a moral value I feel is important, go figure. And although I may have harsh criticism for the site, it does not translate to individuals; you are trying to make that connection. I find Ms. Manley to be a very nice person and an awesome water polo fan. And while we can continue this back and forth forever, I am not a retired school teacher that has lots of time to spend blogging!
Proud Teacher August 27, 2012 at 10:48 PM
"I never claimed that the site violated any District policies" Well, that IS why the site is being discussed - the reason President Brennan put this on the Board's Agenda - and the theme of Joe's article. Mr. Brennan is concerned with a violation of policy - and has not made any attempt to formalize an attack on the opinions expressed therein, or on the site's anonymity. Incidentally, anonymity is a treasured American heritage. Remember Silence Dogood? Slightly before the time of Hernando's Hideaway, but you may recall the name anyway. Incidentally, you might want to check your facts about the origins of the website. I think it goes back further than you assume. Of course, if you're judging the truth of facts by the individual purveying them - in this case Dennis Brennan - then, in the immortal words of Gilda Radner, "Never Mind." I think you have a point about the construction. I think the site detracted attention from the main issue about the construction - which is how so much money got spent on something that benefits so few with so little. A fascinating tale that I think the site has developed pretty well over a series of posts.
Ron Landers August 28, 2012 at 06:14 PM
The site originally financed by Skoda, Manley and Davidson as a POLITICAL site, now spews attacks against the school district while using the school identity in violation of the district's policy. That isn't freedom of speech any more than I have the right to libel someone on this comment section. Perhaps some would say that you can say anything anonymously and it's all coveered by our freedom of speech. Those people are wrong. If the purveyors of this site libel Brennan, the school or others, what recourse would they have if the people are anonymous. This has to be illegal!

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