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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."

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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