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D-181 Board upholds superintendent's ruling on altercation between former board members

HINSDALE – The District 181 Board of Education voted Monday to uphold Superintendent Renee Schuster's decision to issue a written reprimand to a former board member.

The issue stemmed from an executive session meeting of the Board held on April 22 during which former board member Yvonne Mayer alleges Sarah Lewensohn, also a former board member, threw a water bottle at her.

Mayer said the incident violated district policy 8:030, which states: "The School District expects mutual respect, civility and orderly conduct among all individuals on School Property or at a school event. No person on School Property or at a school-sponsored activity or event (including visitors, students and employees) shall: (1) Strike, injure, threaten, harass, or intimidate a staff member, a board member, sports official or coach, or any other person."

Mayer was seeking for Lewensohn, who is still a member of the Finance Committee, to be denied admission to school events or meetings for up to one calendar year, as stated in the district's policy for violation of 8:030.

Board member Brendan Heneghan said he was in the meeting and saw Mayer get hit with the bottle.

"I think it was wrong and I think from a board member's perspective this could've easily been avoided," Heneghan said. "I think Ms. Mayer deserves a hearing."

Fellow board member Mridu Garg agreed with Heneghan citing the first line of policy 8:030 and said it was important the Board did not condone this behavior.

"It doesn't matter if the bottle was full or not," Garg said. "I think what you have to look at is that it was picked up and thrown at somebody else and I think that's wrong. "

Heneghan was also disappointed in the amount of money the district spent on the investigation.

"Whether one saw the bottle hit Ms. Mayer or not, everybody saw that bottle was thrown and I think to have to spend I think $8,000 or $9,000 to reach that conclusion is not a good use of our resources," he said.

While Garg and Heneghan voted against Schuster's written reprimand, the rest of the Board voted to uphold it.

"I try to make all my decisions based upon what will help move us toward greater mutual respect," Schuster said.

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