DuPage Judge Rules Against Barrett in D86 Records Dispute

The board member's counsel said they will either appeal the decision or ask to re-plead the case.

Dianne Barrett's case was in court for more than 15 months; the ruling took only a few minutes.

During a brief hearing Friday morning at the DuPage County Judicial Center in Wheaton, Judge Thomas Dudgeon announced his decision to side with and dismiss District 86 board member Barrett’s suit against Superintendant Dr. Nicholas Wahl and Board President Dennis Brennan seeking unfettered access to the district’s student records.

Dudgeon said his decision was based on access restrictions contained in the Illinois Student Records Act (ISRA). According to the judge, Barrett’s side never presented a rationale for how she qualifies for unfettered access under ISRA and Barrett’s status as a school board member alone does not qualify her.

“As far as I’m concerned, that puts an end to the case,” Dudgeon said. “The case is concluded.”

Director Natalie Brouwer Potts of the Center for Open Government, which has provided counsel for Barrett, attended Friday’s hearing with her client. Potts said Barrett will either appeal the decision or ask to re-plead the case in front of Dudgeon. She said Barrett's team has 30 days to review Dudgeon’s decision and take further action.

Potts said she doesn’t view Friday's ruling as a declaration that Barrett is not entitled to student records, but that the board member “did not ask the right way.” Potts said Barrett’s counsel wasn’t given the chance to show how Barrett qualifies for access under ISRA.

“Dianne Barrett is fully entitled under ISRA as someone who is qualified to see school records,” Potts said.

, Dudgeon cited Section 6(a) of ISRA, which sets the conditions for when a person can have access to student records. For employees and officials of a school district to have access, according to the ISRA, they must show “current demonstrable educational or administrative interest in the student, in furtherance of such interest.”

Attorney James Petrungaro represented the district at Friday’s hearing and said afterwards that the district is happy with Dudgeon’s decision and it will prevent board members who don’t prove their need for access from getting that access.

“It established that the confidentiality of students and student records prevails over a curious board member,” Petrungaro said of the ruling.

The case stems from requests filed by Barrett in July 2009 seeking documents related to special-education-related issues. She took legal action in July 2010 after the district gave her documents with what her lawyers have said was significant redaction. The district has maintained that what was redacted was confidential student information.

When asked if he thought Friday’s ruling put an end to the case, Petrungaro said he did not know.

“I would hope it’s over so that the school district can stop fighting lawsuits brought by its own board members,” he said.

Ralph "Cash" Beardsley November 18, 2011 at 06:24 PM
So you just spent 15 months horsing around with this nonsense and a judge disposed of it in a matter of minutes. Outstanding use of the public's time and resources!!
Joe O'Donnell (Editor) November 18, 2011 at 08:52 PM
Hi Ralph. Thanks for the comment. It took him a few minutes for Dudgeon to read the decision, was all I meant. I wouldn't say it only took him a few minutes to decide his ruling.
Rahjer November 19, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Any chance of re-couping lost District funds that were thrown away on legal fees defending this frivalous law suit?
Sue Pircon November 19, 2011 at 04:09 PM
I applaud Judge Dudgeon for keeping the private information regarding our children confidential. It was a costly 15 months of litigation. I am curious just how much of taxpayer money was spent defending this case. The school has better things to spend money on than defending suits filed by their own board members
Duncan Idaho November 20, 2011 at 05:21 PM
Wonder if the litigation could have been avoided if Barrett and the District would have signed a non-disclosure agreement? I don't know the details, but it seems Barrett wanted information to assess the cost/benefits of special education. That does not appear wholly inconsistent with her role as a Board member.
Prince November 20, 2011 at 07:29 PM
Part of the suit addressed her want/need to show others. Since she stated she was not an expert it was/is necessary to share this information. If she is not an expert how would she know or understand what Special Ed benefit(s) my student needs? Its my understanding, a board member is bound to confidentiality. Ms Barrett does not want to acknowledge law. She does not do what is best for the students. It seems as if she is the puppet of others. She has openly promoted a rogue blog site that erroneously bashes District 86. It was interesting to see what other board member and private citizens appeared in the gallery at these hearings. Tomorrow's meeting should be interesting - 7:30pm at Hinsdale Central's Community Room. Wonder if she will show.....
clarhillsmom November 20, 2011 at 08:53 PM
It is time for Dianne Barrett to step down. We, as taxpayers need fiscally responsible board members; not grand standers.
Karen Karson November 21, 2011 at 02:22 AM
I agree Barrett needs to step down.
Govt watchdog November 21, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Why would the school prevent its own board member from records she needs to do her job? Way to save money -- give her the records and stop paying the lawyers thousands to defend a lawsuit. Sounds like Barrett is trying to get special ed records to make sure the program is running the right way, not because she wants to invade people's privacy.
Sue Pircon November 21, 2011 at 08:20 PM
Dear Govt watchdog, it has been made clear...it's the law! The board does not have the right to release a students personal information, as made clear in the decision. The Administration would have been breaking the law if they released the information "to save money". As a board member she should understand the law and not filed the suit in the first place! She doesn't need personal information to 'make sure the program is running the right way'. If you really are a Govt watchdog I would think you would defend the privacy of our students!
clarhillsmom November 23, 2011 at 08:40 PM
You are absolutley correct Sue. The last thing I would ever want, is to have board members have access to students records. Ms. Barrett needs to learn the law -- and if she does not like it; she should not be a board member.
SubaruSuzie November 26, 2011 at 06:41 PM
I agree with Govt Watchdog. More school board members should be like Dianne Barrett and take an active role in ensuring that our children's education is taken seriously. Dianne clearly cares about the quality of education our children recieve and by asking for records merely wanted to make sure that the Special Education program was the best that it could be. Mr. Brennan should be commending not condemning Dianne. And as for the privacy concerns a few commentors seem to share, let's not forget that as a school board member, Dianne is required to keep private information private.
RealityCzech November 28, 2011 at 01:15 AM
Ugghh. Ms. Barrett isn't just some "curious" person from off the street asking to see these records. She is an elected official charged with a number of obligations. One is the oversight of the the school district. She needs to be informed in order to fulfill her obligations. Administrators like Dr. Wahl are gatekeepers of this information and have the power to paint any picture they want by picking and choosing what information board members can use to make decisions. A responsible and active board member like Ms. Barrett should be commended for trying to carry out her responsibilities.
Donna J December 11, 2011 at 09:14 AM
I'm glad I wasn't a student at HTHS or South with this woman running loose. WHY does she want to get her hands on students' records? I'm mad at the amount of money "wasted" on this lawsuit but I think the bigger question is why does she want to look at the records? Start there! My kid's records (or mine, for that matter), are NONE OF HER BUSINESS! Bugger off, woman! Donna Goodwin Temple City, Ca. HTHSS class of '68


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something