CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Board of Education President Jill Critchley Weber addressed the topic soon after the regular meeting of the BOE began Monday night, stating that the board members would be unable to legally comment on the federal lawsuit filed against the district last month.
But during the public portion of the meeting, Chatham residents expressed their support for the district curriculum, including Colleen Truppo, who read a letter into the record that was signed by 156 BOE supporters.
Chatham resident Libby Hilsenrath filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of her minor son, a Chatham Middle School student, charging that the district's curriculum advocated the conversion to Islam in its 7th Grade "World Cultures and Geography" class.
"If you do approach a board member in public, just know they are not trying to be dismissive or evasive, they just can't comment on an open active legal matter," Weber said. "We certainly don't want to have a misstep and cause the district, and quite frankly taxpayers, money unnecessarily because we've said something we shouldn't have or stepped out of line.
"Certainly, make your concerns known, but please don't take offense if we can't engage in an open and active dialogue on a matter that's outstanding. We are going to defend the lawsuit, as our attorney said, vigorously. We'll try to keep you informed as we possibly can. Unfortunately, our hands are tied."
BOE President Jill Critchley Weber addressed the lawsuit at the regular meeting of the board
In addition to supporting the curriculum of the district, Truppo's letter also asked for an accounting of what the lawsuit will cost taxpayers.
"We also have one request, the actions associated with defending this lawsuit will have clear, tangible costs to the School District of the Chathams," Truppo said in reading the letter. "As taxpayer dollars, which would be used to educate children in the district, will instead be used to fight this lawsuit.
"We respectfully request that the school district, the board of ed, keep detailed, line-item accounts of every expense associated with this lawsuit, including all legal, administrative and costs for additional security, and make that information public at each board of education meeting, if possible. In this way, Chatham residents can be informed of the costs we are all incurring as the result of the actions of one individual."
Colleen Truppo's full remarks and reading of the letter can be viewed in video below
Chatham resident Tracy Ness also spoke in favor of the BOE curriculum in the public portion of the meeting