Second Oak Brook family sues Butler District 53 in cheating scandal
A second Oak Brook family has filed a lawsuit against Butler Elementary District 53 and its board of trustees, alleging the mistreatment of a 9-year-old boy accused of cheating in local spelling and geography bee competitions.
A mother, identified only as S. Jain, filed the lawsuit this week in DuPage County on behalf of her son, a fifth-grade student accused by Superintendent Heidi Wennstrom and district officials of cheating on both GeoBee and WordMasters contests earlier this year.
The boy was banned from all academic competitions in the district after officials accused his mother of sharing login information with another parent to intentionally purchase and download test questions days before the Jan. 19 GeoBee at Brook Forest Elementary School.
Jain's lawsuit seeks to eliminate the sanctions placed on her son and to have letters and documents related to a district investigation into the actions of his parents removed from the boy's school files.
According to court documents, the district said it is "open to removing the letter" from the boy's file when he graduates from eighth grade or transfers out of the district.
Jain said she filed the suit after the district "did not accept a conciliatory resolution which may be mutually acceptable."
"We look forward to vindication by constitutional law. We never accessed the Geobee questions. We wish to clear our good names," Jain said Thursday. "My hope is that what happened to our son when he was secretly interrogated and coerced by the superintendent, principal and assistant principal together as the complaint describes, will never, ever happen to another child anywhere."
According to the lawsuit, Wennstrom and two other Brook Forest administrators pulled the boy from class Jan. 19 and "interrogated him vigorously and with ill intent" about what materials he used to study for the bee and how his parents obtained them.
"He was clearly emotionally, psychologically, verbally and mentally wrongfully abused by those who interrogated him and by the intent of the interrogation process and methods used," Jains wrote to board of education in a letter included in the suit.
Reached on her cellphone Thursday, Wennstrom said the district had not yet been notified of the suit but the allegations of an interrogation are "complete and utter nonsense."
"Whenever the matter is deemed sensitive, we have more than one person (present) to ensure the child is treated sensitively and kindly in all situations," she said. "At no time was one individual ever alone with a student associated with the cases."
According to court documents, Wennstrom accused Jain in writing on Feb. 8 of obtaining access to the National Geographic Bee contest questions by accessing them through a shared joint email and password with Rahoul and Komal Julka. Wennstrom also said her investigation concluded that Jain falsely registered as a home-school provider with WordMasters Challenge to obtain test questions in advance of the contest.
Jain denies in the lawsuit ever having access to GeoBee questions or information. She also says her registration with WordMasters Challenge as a home-school provider was a mistake because she didn't realize she could have registered as an individual.
The Julka family filed a similar lawsuit against the district in May, also seeking the removal of identical sanctions from their 9- and 11-year-old sons. That case is set to be heard July 18.
Jain's suit is scheduled to be heard Aug. 25.