Two District 86 school board members questioned whether the board was violating its own policies Monday night. At issue was an appeal of Superintendent Nick Wahl's decision to continue allowing the movies "Brokeback Mountain" and "American Beauty" to be shown as part of a Hinsdale South literature class.
A Hinsdale South parent filed the district's first curriculum objection in eight years, saying the movies contained sexual content and obscenities of which he did not approve.
On October 3, Wahl made a decision that the school acted according to policy and followed proper procedures in allowing the principal to approve all R-rated movies shown. The decision delivered to the parent, Victor Casini, read in part:
"After careful review of the findings from Mr. Paulsen, it is evident that the building followed District 86 Board Policy 6:210 whereby the building principal approves all R-rated films shown. District 86 Administrative Procedures were also followed in that the teacher, Ms. [Kristin] Wimsatt, sent out a permission slip to gain parental consent for each student to view specific R-rated movies as a part of the Film as Literature courseThe parent, Victor Casini, who is an attorney and former member of the Gower 62 school board, appealed the decision. The appeal maintained that the movies are not age appropriate and requested the showing of the movies be temporarily halted as the objection process took place..."
Casini said he signed the Film as Literature syllabus several school days into the school year, but said the syllabus contained a number of movies without thorough descriptions. Casini said he hadn’t seen either of the movies in question until after signing the syllabus.
"The syllabus produced by Hinsdale South is a very poor syllabus. Brokeback Mountain is not even listed as an R-rated movie," said board member Richard Skoda. "There’s more to movies than pornography, violence, drugs..."
On Monday night, board member Dianne Barrett said two policies had been brought to her attention, which should be considered regarding the superintendent's decision.
"The parent in question made a comment about looking at [Policy 6:180,], and it indicates that if the subject matter is controversial, the board should take a look at it," said Barrett.
Barrett said the second policy that was brought to her attention, Policy 6:160, stated that in all grades, character values must be stressed.
"Quite frankly, I think we should ask the superintendent to go back and reconsider what is being directed to the resident," said Barrett. "I think we're violating our own policies."
Wahl said part of the review did take into consideration the standards of the literature department.
"The board has all the materials. Mr. Casini was interviewed..Tom Paulsen’s report is in here. It totals 57 pages ... I’d say based on the materials, we are able to make a decision on whether we accept the superintendent’s decsion or not," said Board President Dennis Brennan.
The board voted 5-2 to approve the superintendent's decision to continue showing the movies. Board members Dennis Brennan, Kay Gallo, DeeDee Gorgol, Michael Kuhn and Jennifer Planson voted in favor. Board members Richard Skoda and Dianne Barrett voted against.
Casini declined to comment on the decision, except to say, "I'm out of it now. It's the board's decision."