Judge Not Convinced of Barrett's Right to 'Unfettered Access'
DuPage County Circuit Judge Thomas Dudgeon will make a decision on District 86's motion to dismiss the case over unfettered access to student records in November.
A written decision on whether or not to dismiss District 86 board member Dianne Barrett’s lawsuit against the district’s superintendant and board president won’t come until Nov. 18, but at a hearing Thursday in Wheaton it seemed clear Judge Thomas Dudgeon does not think Barrett's side has proved her right to access to unredacted student records.
Dudgeon cited Section 6(a) of the Illinois Student Records Act (ISRA), which sets the conditions for when a person can have access to student records. For employees and officials of a school district to have access, according to the ISRA, they must show “current demonstrable educational or administrative interest in the student, in furtherance of such interest.”
Barrett’s lawyer, Clint Krislov of Krislov & Associates, Ltd. and the Center for Open Government, has argued that as a board member, Barrett should be entitled to all district documents, including student records, without redaction.
“You haven’t addressed ISRA,” Dudgeon said.
The judge said that Barrett needs to meet the conditions set forth in ISRA, and has to show interest in a specific student or students. Until then, Dudgeon said to Krislov, “It’s clear as a bell; you don’t get to see student records.”
Dudgeon also talked about how the case has gone from a narrow dispute over the specific District 86 special-education documents Barrett originally wanted unredacted, to a big-picture case about unfettered board member access to all district documents.
“You have pleaded a cause of action that has gone far beyond the parameters of the dispute,” Dudgeon said to Krislov.
Dudgeon said he will present his written decision on the district’s motion to dismiss Barrett’s case on Nov. 18. District 86 lawyer James Petrungaro said after the hearing he was pleased with what he heard from the judge Thursday.
“Although the judge has not entered a decision yet, it appears his ruling will be in the district’s favor,” Petrungaro said.
Krislov agreed that it doesn’t sound like Dudgeon will rule in his client's favor, but he said he hopes the judge will provide a clear decision so that Barrett can take the decision to the appellate court.
The case stems from requests filed by Barrett in July 2009 seeking documents related to special-education-related issues. She took legal action in July 2010 after the district gave her documents with what her side said was significant redaction. The district has maintained that what was redacted was confidential student information.
Barrett's suit was specifically filed against District 86 Superintendant Dr. Nicholas Wahl and Board President Dennis Brennan.