Millburn D24 board member suggests no punishment for vandalizing tampon dispensers in boys bathrooms: ‘It’s likely going to ... cause issues’

The Millburn District 24 school board returned Monday to the subject of feminine hygiene products being made available in the district’s boys bathrooms.

Two weeks after some board members were ripped by district residents at a heated meeting for their previous “transphobic” comments on the topic, board member Jim Guziak proposed that the board consider three policy options, including one defining tampon dispensers as an “attractive nuisance” and ensuring that any students who vandalize or misuse them are not punished.

“It’s a temptation, and it’s more than likely going to happen, so disciplinary action against the kids should really not be something that the kids should have to deal with,” Guziak said. “In some ways, it doesn’t seem logical. Then after that, the parent should not be held financially liable for any of the damage.

“Again, we’re having a temptation and we’re dealing with boys of a certain age,” he continued. “Things are just going to happen. Parents aren’t there and it’s likely going to ... cause issues.”

Specifically, Guziak asked the board to consider a policy outlining that children not be disciplined if found to have been involved in destruction of the devices; putting graffiti on or scratching the dispensers; emptying or misappropriating their contents; and any plumbing issues associated with the hygiene products.

Superintendent Jason Lind and district business manager Carly Kraft periodically interjected with questions to clarify what Guziak was asking and whether he intended to craft such policies for the board to consider, which he affirmed was his intention.

“So, if someone defaces the machine with hate words or discriminatory words, would that be baked into the (policy)?” Kraft asked.

Lind replied that he thought that was a good question, but did not think the board should get into that discussion on Monday, and said the district would have to run a proposal “past our attorneys, of course, like we do for all of our policies we create.”

Lind previously informed the board the dispensers were required in accordance with Illinois state law, and the board was advised on Feb. 13 by school law attorneys of the risks of litigation if it was out of compliance.

He added, “We would have to follow the law,” after Kraft asked for clarity.

Millburn School District 24 operates Millburn Elementary and Millburn Middle School, and covers parts of Lindenhurst, Wadsworth and Old Mill Creek.

In a six-minute address after the board returned from an hourlong closed session, Guziak also suggested that the board work with “parents, teachers, union members and elected officials and other concerned people that showed up” at recent meetings to move the state of Illinois to a school voucher system, and said he has perceived a “disconnect between the information that the parents and guardians of the students get, and what the taxpayers (receive).”

Guziak made a number of references to the previous suggestions he and others on the board were transphobic saying, “Everybody is concerned about parents and the kids, and the parents were very vocal. So, if they’re going to be concerned about the kids, be concerned about all kids.

“And if the parents are going to say, ‘I want my kids to be taught in a different manner,’ that would mean the money for teaching those kids needs to go to the kids and it needs to follow them where their parents choose to send them,” he continued. “Call it grassroots, I don’t know.”

Guziak in particular drew criticism from speakers on Feb. 13 for his comments during a lengthy Jan. 23 board discussion over the district’s installation of the dispensers, in which he said he’d be “jumping up and down on this table here” had a child of his still been enrolled at Millburn when the feminine hygiene items were made available in the boys restrooms.

He went on to clarify that he was envisioning a committee to discuss among district and community stakeholders whether there is a collective interest in pushing legislation to enact school vouchers, or as he put it, “trying to push a boulder up a hill in this state.”

Board member Peter Pettorini, who told the board on Jan. 23 he was “so opposed” to the hygiene products in the boys bathrooms, and Sean Coleman, who also spoke at length on Jan. 23 and Feb. 13, did not respond in detail to Guziak’s suggestions on Monday.

A majority of the board previously echoed Guziak’s disapproval of allowing the hygiene products in the boys restrooms.

On Monday afternoon, Round Lake District 116 announced in an email that Pettorini has been on paid leave from his job as an English teacher at Round Lake High School since early January, when the district was informed that he is being investigated by the Round Lake police department.

Pettorini declined to comment on the issue after Monday’s meeting.

“The district immediately placed Mr. Pettorini on paid administrative leave, pending the results of this investigation,” District 116 Superintendent Donn Mendoza wrote on Monday. A District 116 spokesperson declined further comment.

The Round Lake police department has denied a News-Sun Freedom of Information Act request seeking case reports related to the investigation. Department records clerk Stefanie Rinchiuso wrote that the incident report involved will be available “to the extent permissible by law” once it would no longer “obstruct an ongoing criminal investigation.”

Monday night’s meeting took on a much cooler tone than two weeks prior, when a crowd of about 40 mostly outraged community members filled the school’s cafeteria. There were fewer than 10 people in attendance, and no public comments.