Hinsdale Dist. 86 reaches settlement in Open Meetings Act lawsuit

  • The school board in Hinsdale Township High School District 86 has approved a court settlement in an Open Meetings Act lawsuit.

    The school board in Hinsdale Township High School District 86 has approved a court settlement in an Open Meetings Act lawsuit. Daily Herald file photo

 
Daily Herald report
Updated 5/29/2020 4:28 PM

The school board in Hinsdale High School District 86 will receive training on the Illinois Open Meetings Act as part of the settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by three community members.

The board voted 5-1 to approve the settlement on Thursday night.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Meeta Jain Patel, Kara Kuo and Kim Notaro sued the board and then-President Nancy Pollak on Feb. 7. The lawsuit stemmed from a Dec. 12 board meeting.

"Under a vague policy allegedly promoting 'civility' and preventing any public commentary about particular personnel, the board abruptly cut off compelling commentary by community members," according to a news release from Loevy & Loevy, the law firm representing Patel, Kuo and Notaro.

Those speakers were attempting to object to proposed curriculum changes in the Hinsdale Central High School science program.

"The public has a right under the First Amendment and Illinois' Open Meeting Act to criticize public officials, and this lawsuit served to uphold that critical right," attorney Josh Burday said in a statement.

Under the terms of the settlement, the board will agree to have Maryam Judar, executive director of the Citizen Advocacy Center in Elmhurst, speak at an October meeting about the First Amendment and Open Meetings Act for 40 minutes, followed by a 20-minute question-and-answer session.

The board also will allow the three residents to read a letter by Dr. Dan Levinthal at a meeting of their choosing, but no later than May 30, 2021.

The board formally acknowledges that "under the First Amendment and Open Meetings Act, Meeta Patel, Kara Kuo and Kim Notaro should have been allowed to read" the letter at the December meeting, according to the four-page settlement.

In addition, members will "permit the public to make comments at future board meetings critical of specific public officials or employees subject only to the well-established restrictions under the First Amendment, such as the restrictions on fighting words, true threats, obscenity, or incitements to imminent violence."

The defendants will pay Patel, Kuo and Notaro $21,000 in attorney fees and costs.

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