HINSDALE – An online petition calling for Hinsdale High School District 86 Board Member Claudia Manley to resign has gathered nearly 1,100 signatures since it was posted online Sunday.
The petition was posted by Marissa Dupont, 17, of Burr Ridge, a senior at Hinsdale South High School. Dupont is student council president at Hinsdale South, is on staff at the school’s yearbook and is captain of the badminton and swim and dive teams.
Dupont said she is calling for Manley’s resignation after she was bullied by Manley for handing out campaign materials before a school play March 12 and 13.
Dupont said she was harassed by Manley both nights before the play as she tried to hand out fliers supporting Jennifer Planson, Bill Carpenter and Kathleen Hirsman for seats on the District 86 Board in the April 7 election. The candidate slate of Planson, Carpenter and Hirsman is running in opposition to a slate of candidates aligned with the board’s majority and the board’s president, Richard Skoda.
Manley is not running for re-election.
Dupont said Manley first approached her Thursday night as she was handing out the pamphlets at the school.
“I think that it’s important for students to have a voice [in the district’s election], even those who can’t vote,” Dupont said of her interest in the campaign.
Dupont was handing out the fliers with an adult friend, Mary Sullivan of Darien, on March 12, when they were approached by Manley, who was at the school to attend her daughter’s play.
“It was very low key,” Sullivan said. “We were just asking if [voters] were interested in more information.”
Dupont and Sullivan said when Manley approached with her husband, Manely initially said they should get their own materials supporting President Skoda and his Conservative Slate, which includes Greg Gurshuny and Fred Cappetta. When Manley’s husband told her he did not think campaigning was allowed on school property, she began to raise her voice and argue with Sullivan and Dupont over their activities.
“She wasn’t yelling, but she was very strong in what she was saying,” Dupont said. “It was intimidating. It wasn’t a friendly conversation.”
Dupont and Sullivan said Manley directed her conversation mainly at Dupont and told her she was a bully and that she had ruined her daughter’s play by being at the school and handing out the materials.
Manley did not return several requests for comment sent to her district email account.
Campaigning on campus
Dupont said she returned with four other adults on March 13 to hand out more materials and were again confronted by Manley, who began taking pictures of her and saying she had violated Policy 4:20 of the school’s code. Hinsdale South Principal Stephanie Palmer and a school police liaison officer stepped in to separate the two groups.
District 86 Superintendent Bruce Law said after consulting with the school’s legal counsel, he was informed there was no rule preventing people from handing out campaign literature at the school.
Law said Policy 4:20 refers to instances when an outside group wants to pay the school to advertise on the property, such as if a local merchant wanted to advertise at a sporting event. Law said after the March 12 incident, the school prepared the following night by having the police officer available and setting up tables where both campaigns could hand out materials in an orderly way.
Skoda said he received a call from Manley on March 12 during the incident, but wasn’t available to take the call. He said after talking to Manley on March 13, he told her his opinion was that campaigning on school property was against the school’s policy.
Skoda said he had spoken with Law about Policy 4:20 and was informed it did not cover the dissemination of political materials, but said Thursday he still believed it was against school policy to do so.
“We have a lack of enforcement, not a lack of policy,” Skoda said. “We have a policy.”
Law said that after a review of the school’s policy with legal counsel, there is no policy one way or the other.
Skoda said that such an interpretation could leave the school open to having members of the Ku Klux Klan, for example, come to the school to distribute fliers. Robert Bland, campaign manager for the Conservative Slate, asked if ISIS would be allowed on school grounds to recruit students, if political campaigning were allowed.
“My perspective is that you limit it to everyone, or you are limiting it to no one,” Skoda said.
Bland called calls for Manley’s resignation, “a high-tech lynching.”
Skoda said he thinks that everyone needs to get away from this and let the school handle it. He’s concerned that the court of public opinion has already found her guilty.
“We don’t know if [Manley] did anything wrong,” Skoda said Thursday. “What bothers me about this is we’re trying someone.”