DuPage judges dismiss lawsuits against Butler District 53 in cheating scandal
DuPage County judges have dismissed a total of three lawsuits filed by two Oak Brook families in hopes of ending a cheating scandal that has plagued Butler Elementary District 53 since last June.
Judge Robert Gibson ruled Monday that the court was not the proper forum for the suit and that it was moot because the district already has provided the relief sought in the first place. Judge Paul Fullerton ruled similarly in the two other cases Monday.
The district recently lifted sanctions against two brothers, then 9 and 11, and a classmate, then 9, who were accused of planning to cheat during last year's National Geographic Bee regional competition at Brook Forest Elementary School.
The brothers 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.
Officials also agreed to remove two letters from the boys' school files related to a district investigation into the parents' actions.
"While we are pleased that the sanctions against our children have been ended, and the letters referencing these sanctions have allegedly been removed from their student records, we disagree strongly with the decision by the court to dismiss our case based on the doctrine of mootness, as this did not allow for a hearing on the merits of the case and an opportunity for the court to hear and see evidence of the school district's disregard for its own policies and procedures," Rahul Julka, father of the brothers, said after Monday's ruling.
"We also feel strongly that the case should not have been dismissed based on mootness, as the remedies sought by us were not obtained in our case," he said. "The arbitrary lifting of the sanctions on our children, which were previously wrongfully instilled on them, does not moot the issue of whether or not the school district reached the correct decision during the grievance process."
Parents of the third child were not immediately available following the judges' rulings.
District officials moved to have the suits dismissed through recent court filings.
According to the original lawsuit and its exhibits, a six-week investigation determined that 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 Jan. 15, 2016, that claimed Julka admitted 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.
Meanwhile, two federal lawsuit, filed by the Julkas and the second family in April, continue to move forward.
That lawsuits claim the district violated three constitutional amendments by denying the plaintiffs due process and inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on the boys.
"We feel confident that once the evidence of the violations of our family's due process and civil rights is heard in federal court, we will be able to bring to light the improprieties conducted by the school district," Rahul Julka said.
District President Elizabeth Chun said Monday evening that the district will now turn its attention to the two outstanding federal lawsuits.
"The district continues to work closely with our attorneys to respond to the federal lawsuits related to this matter. While the federal litigation is pending, we cannot comment further," Chun said. "We continue to put the education and care of all students as our top priority, challenging them in their academic and personal development to prepare them to learn and succeed in an evolving world."