Butler District 53 seeks end to lawsuit in GeoBee cheating scandal

 
 
Updated 8/4/2017 8:58 PM

Butler Elementary District 53 officials are asking a DuPage County judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by an Oak Brook family in hopes of ending a year-old cheating scandal that has plagued the district since last June.

In a nine-page July 31 court filing, district officials ask for the case to be dismissed and deemed "moot" after they say they provided the relief sought by the lawsuit in the first place.

 

According to court documents, the district recently lifted sanctions against the 9- and 11-year-old brothers who were accused of planning to cheat during last year's National Geographic Bee regional competition at Brook Forest Elementary School.

The boys were banned from all academic competitions in the district after officials accused their parents of intentionally purchasing and downloading test questions days before the Jan. 19, 2016, GeoBee at Brook Forest.

According to the same court documents, officials also agreed to remove two letters from the boys' school files related to a district investigation into the parents' actions.

But Dr. Rahul Julka, a DuPage County surgeon, and his wife, Komal, say those actions are "too little too late."

Anish Parikh, the attorney representing the Julkas, confirmed Friday the sanctions have been lifted and letters removed.

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"But that does not satisfy my clients or clear their name," Parikh said. "A lifting of sanctions is quite different from a complete repeal of those sanctions as if they never happened in the first place."

Parikh said the administrative review case must continue in hopes of a judge finding the sanctions and letters should never have been placed.

According to the original lawsuit and its exhibits, a six-week investigation determined Komal Julka had registered as a "fraudulent" home school provider and paid for the bee's questions with her credit card.

Administrators began receiving complaints on Jan. 15, 2016, about Julka admitting to "jailbreaking" the geography bee system and gaining access to test questions. According to exhibits filed in the lawsuit, another parent claims to have twice urged the Julkas to remove their children from the competition, which they eventually did.

District officials declined to respond Thursday and Friday to questions related to why they agreed to remove the letters and lift the sanctions.

Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit, filed by the Julkas in April, continues to move forward.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That lawsuit claims the district violated three constitutional amendments by denying the plaintiffs due process and inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on the boys.

"We believe there was a lot of wrongdoing on the part of the school board and the district," Parikh said. "But worst of all is the alleged depravation of civil and constitutional rights, and federal court is the proper venue to sort out those claims."

District 53 Superintendent Heidi Wennstrom called the federal suit "frivolous" shortly after it was filed in April.

The DuPage case next will be heard at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in courtroom 2009.

District 53 serves roughly 400 students in two schools.

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