Attorneys say Wake school board is violating meeting laws

Posted March 23, 2010

Wake County Public School System

— The Wake County Board of Education's decision to limit the number of people attending its meeting Tuesday afternoon quickly drew ire from critics.

The school system said Monday that it would issue tickets to people wanting to attend the board's open meeting because of security and safety concerns. A video feed of the meeting would be provided for those who aren't able to get inside the meeting, the school system said.

WRAL-TV and The News & Observer offered Tuesday afternoon to pay for the board to move the meeting to downtown Raleigh in the Fletcher Opera Theater at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta described the offer as "generous" but declined it, school system spokesman Michael Evans said. The board meeting was already posted, and there was no time between meetings to change locations, Evans said.

“It is unfortunate that more people will not be able to be in person at an open board meeting," Steve Hammel, WRAL-TV's vice president and general manager, said in response.

A number of attorneys sent a letter to Margiotta on Tuesday morning, saying that the ticket plan would "unfairly prevent many parents and other members of the public" from attending, which violates the state's open meetings laws.

"As a political subdivision of the state of North Carolina, the board exists solely to conduct the people's business, and, as current chairman of the board, you have a duty to ensure that all hearings, deliberations and actions of the board be conducted openly," the letter says.

The letter was signed by attorneys for the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, the North Carolina Justice Center and other groups.

The decision to require tickets comes as the school board is poised to hold a final vote on a controversial resolution to begin planning for a new assignment policy that focuses on community-based schools.

The idea has been a contentious one, drawing emotional response from supporters and opponents, because it would replace the school system's policy of busing students to achieve socioeconomic diversity.

Opponents have argued that a move away from the current policy would segregate poor students and put them at a disadvantage when it comes to the quality of education they receive.

School board members in favor of the new assignment model have argued differently. Planning and study of the model would take nine to 15 months, they have said.


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  • whatusay Mar 23, 2010

    What's the problem. Everyone knew when and where the meeting was to be held. Only so many people can get into one building. If you procrastinated and didn't express an interest to attend when it was announced don't cry now. Next time be on time.

  • Tax Man Mar 23, 2010

    Seems to me that everyone gets to see and hear this meeting, unlike the Obama regime that does everything behind closed doors and only admits who they want. Here anyone can attend, but the space is limited. So if you don't get the ticket, watch on TV! As to the freak attorneys who are in the far left fringe, get a life and get real! This is what WE want and NOW! The old liberal days are gone and the parents now control the schools! Go get them Ron! Time for change and this change is for the good of humanity and the removal of artificial barriers to progress.

  • Awake in Wake Mar 23, 2010

    So this is the school board that was going to listen to parents and be sensitive to the concerns of families? This was nothing more than a power grab. These idiots deserve to be voted out of office at the next opportunity. I hope this lunacy does not cost the Wake County taxpayer in the long run.

  • tommys5 Mar 23, 2010

    that was good Global Hoax

  • GlobalHoax Mar 23, 2010

    I don't remember the N&O and WRAL sponsoring a big meeting place for David Price to explain why he was going to vote for Obama-care. Could it be that these "news" organizations only jump in to push their own biases??

  • appgrad95 Mar 23, 2010

    Issuing tickets is what they have to do at high schools for graduation, so what's the big deal here? I see no difference. There are limits to how many people any facility can hold by law/fire code.

  • no contest Mar 23, 2010

    HL, you said it well. Libs do not like it when the power is NOT with their way of thinking. There was an election and this board was voted in. In November we will have another election and we will see the libs cry a river.

  • Lone Voice in the Wilderness Mar 23, 2010

    @HL: the school board represents the people of the county, not just parents of the county. So even though I don't have any children, I still get to vote for the school board.

  • Lone Voice in the Wilderness Mar 23, 2010

    In our form of government, the presumption is that the majority rules. However, the majority simply can't do away with laws that it must abide by. The social conservatives may have a majority of the school board, but they still must obey open session laws.

    While it may be inevitable that the majority will get its vote, but the end ("majority rules") doesn't always justify the means ("following the law"). So, it may be a hassle, but that's the way it is.

    Issuing tickets was a dumb idea. I'm glad to see the school board has changed its mind.

  • HL Mar 23, 2010

    It sucks getting something shoved down your throat doesn't it, kinda like a useless Health Care bill. The previous board did it, so what's new? But for now, those voted it, have the power. Don't like, vote them out. Until then, it is what it is. A majority of the folks at mettings like this I bet don't even live in the county or have kids in school. Just troble makers.