Does Schiller Park School District 81 have similar exposure to an adverse ruling by the Illinois Attorney General since their policy is identical to Norridge School District 80 ?
Below is a copy of Schiller Park School District 81 policy:
….. The Norridge School District 80 Board violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act by blocking a resident from recording a school board meeting last fall, according to a ruling from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
….. The ruling, issued Dec. 28, was in response to a complaint filed in October. In the complaint, Norridge resident Adam Chudzik claimed the school board prevented him from recording the open session of the Sept. 20 school board meeting under the board’s “advance notice rule.”
….. The rule called into question in Chudzik’s complaint is a policy District 80’s board has written into its code for board meeting procedures, which requires meeting attendees planning to record the proceedings to first get permission from the board or the superintendent.
….. The Open Meetings Act says meetings may be recorded.
….. ”Because the Open Meetings Act specifically provides that meetings may be recorded, any public body that prescribes a rule requiring advance notice of recording a meeting would have a steep burden to overcome in order to demonstrate that such a rule is reasonable,” according to the binding opinion issued by public access counselor Sarah Pratt.
….. Chudzik claimed in the complaint that he approached board President Srbo Radisavljevic 10 minutes before the meeting to ask whether he could record the open session portion, and was told he could not. According to the complaint, Radisavljevic told him he needed to provide the board with sufficient advance notice of his intent to make a recording.
….. The school district will now be required, under the Attorney General’s order, to review the policy in question and to begin conducting its future board meetings in compliance with the Open Meetings Act. The school board has until Feb. 1 to file a complaint for administrative review in Cook County Circuit Court.
….. Radisavljevic said the school board hasn’t reviewed the Attorney General’s decision yet, but said District 80’s policy was designed in line with sample policies provided by the Illinois Association of School Boards.
….. ”The board will work with the IASB to update, align and to rectify the portion of the policy which the Attorney General views as in violation of the Open Meetings Act,” he said in an email.
….. In its response to the Attorney General Office’s request for a response to the allegations filed by Chudzik, the school district’s legal counsel had submitted the school board’s written policy for recording public meetings, which requires anyone planning to record a meeting to notify the school board in advance. The board “implements its policy by requiring 24 hours advance notice of any request to record a meeting,” according to the school district’s response sent to the Attorney General’s Office. “It is the board’s position that 24 hours advance notice of such request is a reasonable rule to govern the right to record a meeting under section 2.05 of [the Open Meetings Act].”
….. The board further backed its claim by saying there were children at Leigh School Learning Resource Center during the time Chudzik asked to make a recording. The learning center was the location of the Sept. 20 board meeting. Because School District 80 doesn’t have a public board meeting room, the meetings are typically held on alternating months in the libraries at Leigh and Giles schools.
….. ”The possibility that images of children and students present in the [learning resource center] may also have been recorded was unacceptable and an additional reason to deny the recording request without 24 hours notice,” according to the board’s response to the Attorney General.
….. The Attorney General determined that the school district’s interpretation of the part of the Open Meetings Act in question violated the part of the law that says there’s no provision to grant a public body the authority to prevent someone from recording an open meeting.
….. ”The board failed to demonstrate that its rule was necessary to prevent interference with the proceedings or protect the safety of those in attendance,” the Attorney General’s ruling said.
….. Because modern-day recording devices are often embedded into smartphones, an advance-notice rule would be “difficult or impossible to enforce,” the ruling added.
….. Chudzik said he believes the Attorney General’s ruling serves to support his belief that the board has “no real interest in engaging the public.” Since a recent referendum failed, school board members have sought more public involvement for planning the next steps the district should take to address its growing deficit.
….. ”The district continues to claim they are asking the public for help, only to spend a great deal of time preventing people from any meaningful participation,” Chudzik said in an email. “You can’t have it both ways — they’re just going through the motions.”
….. Calling himself a “Norwood Park Watchdog,” Chudzik posts videos he records of public meetings on his blog.
….. ”The video recording issue shouldn’t have happened,” Chudzik said. “Out of courtesy, I asked if I could place my camera and tripod in a corner out of the way, to keep it out of the audience seating area, [and] in reply they threw a rule book at me.”
Adam Chudzik can be reached at https://www.norridgeintegrity.com
Natalie Hayes is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.