Butler Elementary District 53
Butler Junior High is one of two schools in Butler Elementary District 53. Credit: The Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO (Diya TV) — A family from the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook has filed a $50 million lawsuit against Butler Elementary District 53, alleging their children have been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment related to allegations of cheating in a geography bee.

The lawsuit was filed April 14 in U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois by Rahul Julka on behalf of his two sons, said Julka’s wife, Komal Julka.

Komal Julka said the federal lawsuit was filed in an attempt to bring attention to the situation.

“We don’t even have an attorney for this federal lawsuit; we’re doing it ourselves,” she told The Chicago Tribune. “It really isn’t about the money, but if we filed the suit for $10, nobody would pay attention. We want people to know what’s going on here.”

Julka said she and her husband believed the federal lawsuit was necessary because a previous lawsuit filed last year in DuPage County Circuit court against District 53 and the school board, seeking to eliminate the sanctions and have letters and documents related to the district investigation removed from their sons’ files, doesn’t allow them an opportunity to tell their entire story. “That case is an administrative review, which only allows for the court to look at the procedure the school district followed and not what happened because of their actions,” Julka said. “This is a small community, and a lot of people presume we did something wrong when we didn’t.”

A school district investigation concluded that Komal Julka registered as a “fraudulent” home school provider, and her emails showed she paid for geography bee questions with her credit card after creating a school name and address. The competition, known as the GeoBee, was scheduled to begin Jan. 19, 2016 at Brook Forest School. Before the tournament began, word began spreading among parents that some families may have received actual test questions early, and administrators began receiving complaints Jan. 15, 2016.

Rahul Julka withdrew his children from the competition that same evening, according to district records. The Julkas have denied any wrongdoing.

The Julka boys were banned from all academic competitions in District 53.

Their federal lawsuit states the resulting punishment caused the Julka boys to lose friends, bear the brunt of insults and lose “overall social interaction.”

Information from The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.