Discrimination lawsuit filed against District 181

Hinsdale, IL

According to a lawsuit filed against Hinsdale Township School District 181 on Jan. 24, the school district has consistently excluded a student from its gifted program despite qualifying test scores.

The student, of Hispanic descent, was kept out of the program because of race, according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that minority students have little or no presence in the program.

The lawsuit was filed by a parent of a District 181 student and is the most recent development in the controversy surrounding the district’s gifted program, which was created in 2006 for advanced, high-performing grade school and middle school students.

The district is accused of intentionally inflicting emotional distress on the student and the student’s family in an effort to avoid the student's admission, according to the complaint.

The plaintiff seeks a court order of the student’s admission to the gifted program, appropriate damages, attorneys’ fees and preliminary and permanent injury relief, according to the complaint.

Beginning in second grade, students are given performance tests to determine whether they can participate in the gifted program. The students are tested again in the eighth grade.

As part of the program, each school has its own gifted specialist with yearly salaries totaling $880,928, according to Rita DuChateau, director of communications for the school district.

“Our gifted specialists serve all students within the school, either directly or through consultation with the classroom teachers,” DuChateau said.

The district declined to comment further on the pending litigation.

With $2 million cut from the 2009 budget and another $1.8 million in cuts for 2010, many parents have called for the program's elimination in recent years.

“The program has used taxpayers to pay for an exclusive education for kids that are testing well in second grade,” said a parent with a child attending District 181, who said she did not want to give her name in fear of reprimand.

Lisa Armonda, former school board president for District 181, said that while things might have changed since she left the board two years ago, when placements were decided, only test scores were seen with no student identification codes.

“When I was there, it was blind,” she said.

Placement testing for second graders will continue with upcoming test dates on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.