Complaint wants attendance boundaries changed for 'more affluent' Hinsdale Central High
Boundaries governing which of two highs schools -- Central or South -- students attend in Hinsdale Township High School District 86 could change now that the school board has decided to place the controversial issue on its June 18 meeting agenda.
The board is feeling the pressure of a complaint filed on June 1 with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education, said Zach Mottl, a trustee of the Village of Burr Ridge and a leader in the fight to stop what he says is preferential treatment for Central.
“If they move the boundaries to bring more students from Central to South, as they now appear to be poised to do, that would be a good thing from our perspective because it helps use existing space and facility at South before adding on to Central unnecessarily,” Mottl told West Cook News. “Next is curriculum fairness and equality.”
Central and South have grown so far apart in course and student activity offerings a group formed by the Burr Ridge board and co-chaired by Mottl, the Local School Committee, said it had no choice but to file a civil rights complaint against the district.
Mottl said that favoritism toward Central has been going on for years as the growth in the percentage of minority students at South has outpaced the percentage at Central. Attendance boundaries only reinforce the disparity.
“The boundaries are there to seclude a predominantly white and more affluent population within Central’s attendance area,” Mottl said.
He added that the disparity is beginning to show in the property values.
“Younger, higher income people are buying homes in Hinsdale so their property values are going up while those in Burr Ridge, with an older population, are not seeing the same appreciations in value,” he said.
In one example of the inequity between the two schools, the complaint cites the different approaches the schools take to advanced placement (AP) biology. Central students are required to be enrolled in biology and chemistry before being accepted into AP biology. South students, however, only have to have had chemistry before taking AP biology. The schools use different AP biology textbooks, as well, the complaint states.
The complaint also says that the disparity between the schools has resulted in a student population increase at Central and a drop at South
“Over the last 12 years, successive Boards of Education of the District have watched enrollment at Hinsdale South drop from 1,920 students in 2005 to 1,507 students in 2017 as the minority imbalance between the two high schools has grown,” the complaint said. “Decision making (or lack thereof) of the past and current ... Boards of Education have established, continued, increased, and exacerbated the discriminatory effects of the attendance boundaries.”
Mottl said that the unequal treatment felt by residents led to the overwhelming defeat of a $76 million bond referendum in April 2017. The board is considering placing another referendum on the ballot in November. A recent phone survey showed that most residents oppose it.
“The board thinks it’s a matter of people not understanding what the referendum is all about,” he said. “But it’s more about people believing that Central would get most of the benefits if the referendum passes.”
Mottl said that he’s “99.9 percent” sure the ORC will investigate the district. Remedies include threatening a cut-off of federal funding to force the necessary changes.