Dismissal of discrimination complaint intensifies fight in Hinsdale 86
The U.S. Department of Education’s dismissal of a discrimination complaint against Hinsdale High School District 86 has hardened the battle lines between school officials and a group of residents vowing to erase what they view as inequity between the district’s two high schools, Central and South. It has also escalated a war of words between the two sides.
Dr. Bruce Law, superintendent of the district, told West Cook News that the dismissal shows that the allegations made by the residents were “complete nonsense.”
Zach Mottl, co-chair of a local schools committee that filed the complaint, said that district officials are acting as if the dismissal is “some gold seal of approval. It’s not.”
The complaint, filed in June, charged that Central has superior offerings in curriculum and student activities over South. And, the complaint charged, that the district has been discriminating against black and hispanic students by not allowing all students to choose which high school they wish to attend.
In August, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) dismissed the complaint saying, “OCR has determined that the information is insufficient to allow OCR to conclude that discrimination under one of the laws and regulations enforced by OCR has occurred or is occurring with respect to the District’s attendance area policy…”
Mottl said that the OCR dismissed the complaint on a technicality: racial percentages were under a threshold the OCR needed to conduct an investigation.
He also said that the dismissal was a good indication that progress is being made with the attendance boundaries. After the complaint was filed, the district eliminated a buffer zone between the schools, and then at a later meeting, set new attendance boundaries.
Prior to the change, kids living in the buffer zone could choose their school. Most chose Central. Now, approximately 150 kids who attended Central will now go to South.
“OCR noted the changes the district made,” Mottl said. “And the only reason they (the district) made them was because of the pressure they felt from the complaint.”
He added that the disparity between the schools remains, and more parents will be alerted to it with their kids now attending South.
For his part, Law said that the only thing the allegations have managed to do is “smear the reputation of South,” a school that ranked 20th in a 2018 statewide ranking of high schools by U.S. News and World Report. Central ranked 13th.
The fight between district officials and residents will spill over to the voting booth in November. Mottl and others have formed a committee to defeat a district bond referendum that would raise $166.4 million for improvements to the two schools.
“The district can’t be trusted with any more of the taxpayers’ money,” he said.