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Hinsdale District 86 to revive rules on board access to documents, buildings

<p>Hinsdale South High School | Sun-Times Media file photo</p>

Hinsdale South High School | Sun-Times Media file photo

The Hinsdale High School District 86 Board is revising its policy on board members’ access to district documents, recordings and buildings.

The changes reflect what was stated in the agreement to settle the lawsuit former School Board member Dianne Barrett filed against the then board president and district superintendent. The School Board voted 3-2 in November to approve the settlement agreement.

In complaints filed over the course of three years, Barrett claimed the School Board should not prevent her from listening to audiotapes of closed session meetings she did not attend. She also sued for access to special education documents that the district determined were confidential.

After the lawsuit was filed, the School Board in March 2012 revised district policies to limit board members’ access to district records and property.

The policy requires a board member demonstrate why the record will help him fulfill his legislative or investigatory duties as a board member.

If amended as proposed, the policy would state, all District 86 Board members are entitled to “unlimited access to documents necessary and relevant to a board member’s exercise of official duties . . . including personnel and student records, with no requirement that any reason for the request be stated.”

The revised policy also gives board members the right to listen to closed session tapes regardless if they actually attended the session. A request to listen to a tape must be granted within five business days, unless the tape no longer exists or a longer time period is agreed upon.

The revisions further state a board member must listen to a closed session audiotape on district property, but can do so without a district staff employee present.

The policy would prohibit abuses of such privileges, which would include using district information purely for personal reasons or making “voluminous or otherwise unreasonable requests” that would burden the district’s resources.

A two-thirds vote of the School Board would be necessary to rule a request is abusive.

The revisions also would undo restrictions placed in the last two years on board members in the schools.

Board member Richard Skoda said the restrictions became so egregious that a board member invited to a classroom by the teacher could be denied entrance.

The revised policy would give board members unlimited access to District 86 properties during school hours and other times when the buildings are normally open to the public or staff. The member could move through the school without being accompanied by district staff.

Board member Kay Gallo suggested board members then should be subject to criminal background checks, similar to what school employees undergo.

But other members said the offenses that would be grounds for refusing a member access could be debatable.

The revisions may be voted on at the April 21 board meeting.

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