A school district investigation determined Julka’s wife, Komal, registered as a “fraudulent” home school provider, and her emails showed she paid for the questions with her credit card after creating a school name and address, according to court records. She also is accused of providing the email account and password to the second family, whose child participated in the bee but whose test results were later removed, according to district records filed in the court case. The second family also received a similar prohibition on future academic competitions.
Superintendent Heidi Wennstrom described the squabble as an “extremely isolated situation” and said the sanctions are necessary to ensure such alleged misconduct is not repeated. The Julkas deny any wrongdoing.
“District 53 openly admits that there is no evidence at all that our children did anything wrong or improper, but despite this, imposed sanctions against our children and put information into their student records that may have an extremely negative impact on their future educational and professional lives,” the parents said.”We believe this is not right or proper, and we are confident that the courts will agree with us.”
The high-performing district serves about 400 children who attend kindergarten through eighth grade. In Oak Brook, the competition, known as the GeoBee, was slated to begin Jan. 19 at Brook Forest Elementary School. Some of the children gathered over the previous holiday weekend in study groups. Word spread among parents that some families may have actual test questions, and administrators began receiving complaints Jan. 15.
Rahul Julka withdrew his children from the competition that same evening, according to district records.
In an April 15 letter to the couple, administrators accused Komal Julka of making “shifting and contradictory statements,” including that she initially obtained the actual questions by accident after downloading what she thought where sample study materials. She also implicated a third family and complained the district created a culture of “competitiveness and that it put too much pressure on students and parents,” according to the letter. The district also investigated another contest, known as WordMasters, and, alleged the second family engaged in academic dishonesty, the court filing said. The Julkas were not implicated in that contest.
Wennstrom said she promptly notified both WordMasters and the National Geographic Bee and began an internal investigation that resulted in the sanctions. Both families filed complaints with the school board, prompting another review by a district-hired attorney that upheld the initial findings. The district cleared the third family, accused by Komal Julka, of any wrongdoing.