BREAKING: ECOT Sues State Board, Violation of Open Meetings Act
By: Cyndy Rees
BREAKING: The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) has filed a lawsuit in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court against the Ohio State Board of Education (BOE) citing violation of Ohio's Open Meetings Act.
The complaint cites the following violations:
- Despite the public (and widely publicized) and policy significance of its vote to impose a crippling clawback on Ohio's largest eschool-selected by more than 15,000 students and/or families as their school of choice-the BOE members engaged in no actual deliberation or substantive discussion of the matter on the record during the public BOE meeting held on June 12, 2017, during which such vote occurred. Ohio courts have held that the absence of an actual deliberation at a public meeting is evidence that the public body impermissibly deliberated in violation of the Ohio Meetings Act.
- The Board and/or related staff members engaged in last-minute manipulation of the June 12-13, 2017 BOE meeting agenda by conspicuously removing--both in the paper copies handed out at the meeting and online-an agenda item that originally provided for a "non-public" discussion of pending "administrative" proceedings-ie., the ECOT clawback matter. Such "non-public" session was either folded into an "executive session" with ODE's in-house counsel as part of a related violation of the open Meetings Act, or alternatively, simply eliminated given that the deliberation and decision-making had already occurred.
- Prior to the June 12, 2017, BOE meeting, and upon information and belief, all BOE members engaged in serial electronic and/or in-person discussions and deliberations regarding their respective positions on the ECOT matter. Such discussions included Tess Elshoff, President of the BOE, impermissibly polling BOE members on their vote and/or opinions.
The complaint argues that the Board of Education's actions as well as others taken related to the vote are a violation of the Open Meetings Act. Therefore the BOE vote in favor of a resolution adopting the hearing officer's report and recommendation is invalid as a matter of law. ECOT is seeking injunctive relief precluding the enforcement of the boards actions.
Rick Teeters, Superintendent of ECOT shared his thoughts regarding the lawsuit with 3rd Rail Politics:
"I have been a school administrator for 23 years in three different school systems, and have attended 23 years of school board meetings. I have never seen the public show up, fill out the proper paper work and been denied the opportunity to speak on any issue, whether it was a land purchase issue or coach of the sports team, especially one of this magnitude. I have never seen any board fail to hear the public on any issue when they follow the boards rules and complete the proper paperwork."
A message was left for Senate Education Chairwoman and non-voting State School Board Member Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) but no response was received at the time of this publication.