Yorkville School District Y115 to file documents with state in open meetings complaint

'Just Mercy' by Bryan Stevenson is being used in the Yorkville High School English II Rhetorical Analysis course.

The Yorkville School District Y115 is expected to file documents, transcripts and recordings with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office on Oct. 20 in connection with an Open Meetings Act complaint.

The objection stems from the Yorkville school board’s Aug. 7 decision to prohibit use of a particular book in a Yorkville High School English class.

The board reversed an earlier decision and pulled the book “Just Mercy” from the English II Rhetorical Analysis course.

The Attorney General is investigating a complaint filed on Sept. 28 by Marseilles resident Mary Grzywa that the board violated the state’s Open Meetings Act while discussing the book in closed session.

The district was to have provided meeting minutes and other documentation from the Aug. 7 closed meeting within seven business days of receiving a letter from the Attorney General’s Office dated Oct. 2.

Grzywa said she has received notification from the Attorney General’s Office that the documentation in response to her complaint is to be filed on Oct. 20 by School Board attorney Steve Richart, a partner at the Itasca law firm of Hodges & Loizzi.

The school district superintendent’s office confirmed that Richart plans to file the documents on Oct. 20.

Richart did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Earlier this year, the parent of a student in the English II Rhetorical Analysis course complained about use of Bryan Stevenson’s book “Just Mercy,” which takes a critical look at America’s criminal justice system, triggering the district’s uniform grievance procedure.

Initially, the school board decided on May 22 to allow the book to remain as the “anchor text” for the class with the proviso that an alternative text for the class to be offered.

But at its Aug. 7 meeting, the board changed its decision on a 4-2 vote, directing that the book may no longer be used in the course.

Those voting in favor of removing the book from the class included board President Darren Crawford and board members Jason Demas, Mike Knoll and Mike Houston.

Those voting no were board members Leslie Smogor and Shawn Schumacher. Board member Jason Senffner was absent and has since resigned.

The board cited the grievance procedure as justification for going into closed session to discuss the question.

But the complaint by Grzywa charges that the the closed meetings were improper.

The Attorney General’s Office has requested meeting minutes and other documentation from the closed meeting on Aug. 7.

“Please also provide a detailed written answer to the allegation that the board improperly discussed the removal of a book from the curriculum during that closed session,” according to the letter to the district from the Attorney General’s Office.