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Hinsdale School District 86 addresses report of racist comment toward Asian-American parent



The Hinsdale High School District 86 Board has asked the community to unite against intolerance and rude behavior after a person told an Asian-American man to “Go back to where you came from” during a July meeting.

“As a community, we need to stand up and respond to incivility and disrespect with one voice and say, not here, not on District 86 grounds, not in our community,” board President Bill Carpenter said at the start of the Aug. 6 board meeting.

He was addressing outrage the comment and incidents residents said happened during and after the July meeting.

Peter Zhang, who lives in Willowbrook, addressed the board that night about the uncertainty of not knowing if his 12-year-old son will be able to attend the same high school as his older brother.

Zhang’s family lives in the buffer zone, which was eliminated this summer. High school children from that area will be assigned to either Hinsdale Central or Hinsdale South.

After Zhang spoke, a person in the audience told him that a woman had yelled “Go back to where you came from” while he was talking.

Zhang reported in Facebook posts that a woman stopped him in the parking lot after the meeting and accused him of being a racist. He said she told him one day he will be old, and that they supported him with their taxes.

The woman may have been referring to Zhang comments that some senior citizens told board members that they went to different high schools than their siblings apparently without harm. Zhang had said while he appreciates their information, that happened maybe 50 years ago.

Zhang does not know if the woman who confronted him in the parking lot is the same person who yelled out at the meeting.

Zhang described the incidents on the Facebook page D86 Strong, and it generated dozens of responses in support of him and denouncing the woman’s comment.

Zhang, on Facebook, attributed the comment made at the meeting to “some old lady from FSF group.”

FSF stands for Fill South First, a message some residents of Hinsdale South’s attendance area have been promoting to the school board since at least 2016. They believe before more classrooms are built to relieve overcrowding at Central, some students should be shifted from Central to South, which has room for more students.

Sam Chau of Willowbrook said he was at the July 18 meeting and heard the “go back to where you came from” comment. Chau said he cannot confirm the woman was part of Fill South First. Another resident reported taking a video at the meeting that recorded the comment.

Carpenter said none of the board members heard the comment during the meeting and they reviewed the video of the meeting, but could not hear the controversial comment.

“We as a board hope that none of that happened,” Carpenter said. “We know there are two sides to every story. We heard one side.”

Carpenter encouraged the person who allegedly yelled out the comment at the meeting and the woman who confronted Zhang in the parking lot to contact superintendent Bruce Law or him if they wanted to give their side of the story.

Individuals on the D86 Strong Facebook page called for the school board to investigate the incidents and ban the woman who yelled out and/or Fill South First from future board meetings. One person said Fill South First is a racist group in his Facebook post.

Carpenter said the board does not have the authority to investigate a comment someone makes at a board meeting, nor to ban an individual or a group.

However, Carpenter said, “I would ask that anybody who has racist comments, keep them to themselves. Don’t attend the meetings. Stay home and watch it on the video.”

Many times what people say during audience communication is not true or half facts, but they are still permitted to say them, Carpenter said.

“This certainly does not mean our community as a whole, this board or this administration agrees with them,” Carpenter said.

Betsy Levy of Burr Ridge, who has been described as a member of Fill South First, said it’s not a group, it’s a philosophy that students should be shifted from Central to South to help reduce the enrollment balance between the two schools.

Fill South First is not a racist organization, Levy said.

She was not happy to see her name or FSF being tossed about in the online discussion of the reported racist comment.

“It’s a misrepresentation of Fill South First 100 percent,” Levy said.

Carpenter said the school board does have a policy which say it expects people to conduct themselves in a respectful and civil manner on district property, not only towards other community members, but when addressing the board and the district administration.

In June, after the school board voted to eliminate the buffer zone, several audience members upset with the decision stood and yelled for the superintendent’s resignation, called the board a coward and one man called out, “welcome to the garbage can.”

kfornek@pioneerlocal.com

Twitter @kfDoings





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