Court hears suit against Wake school board

Posted May 14, 2010

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— A Superior Court judge said Friday that he would decide by the end of the day whether the Wake County Board of Education violated the rights of members of the community to have a say in public meetings earlier this spring.

A group of Wake County citizens filed a lawsuit against the board this month concerning the March 23 meeting at which the school board voted to move forward with plans to develop a new, controversial assignment policy that would place students in schools near their homes.

Wake County Public School System Court hears suit against Wake school board

The plaintiffs claim the board violated the state's Open Meetings Law and that they were unlawfully barred from the packed meeting because it was held in a room too small for the crowd that turned out.

They want the court to invalidate the actions at the March 23 meeting, as well as throw out a May 4 vote adopting a new assignment policy. The school board is expected to take a final vote on the new policy at its May 18 meeting.

"The board has taken actions that have the intention and the effect of curtailing public attendance," attorney Swain Wood agued Friday morning before Judge Bill Pittman.

Wood also asked Pittman to throw out a "burdensome" ticket policy and to establish "clear guidelines going forward" about how the school board should conduct its meetings when attendance could be an issue.

The school board's attorney, Kieran Shanahan said, however, that his client went "above and beyond" to ensure its meetings have been conducted properly and to provide the public "ample opportunity" to attend and observe.

"The meeting was, in fact, open, and therefore, the public meetings law has been, in fact, met," Shanahan said.

The Open Meetings law, the board's attorneys argued, doesn't mean everybody has the right to attend any specific meeting, but it's meant to promote openness in the workings of public bodies.

"Not all of the people all of the time can be in the meeting room," school board attorney Ann Majestic said. "Not all of the people who want to speak to the board can speak to the board."

She noted that the board spent more than two hours hearing from 55 speakers, instead of the usual 30 minutes allotted for public comment.

In court documents filed Thursday, Shanahan said the case is about politics because the plaintiffs are against the board's proposed community-based student assignments policy.

The policy would mean ending the school system's longstanding practice of busing students to help create diversity across the district. Opponents are concerned that ending the practice would create pockets of poverty and re-segregate schools.

The plaintiffs argue the board made no effort to make it possible for everyone to attend, even though larger venues were available. They also claim the board made no attempt to provide adequate audio or video coverage of the meeting to the public.

The board's attorneys argued that the board did consider the potential crowd turnout and that it implemented a ticket distribution plan out because of safety concerns.

But the plaintiffs say they along with others were not allowed to sit in on the meeting because they did not have a ticket.


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  • crazywater May 14, 2010

    N&O says DISMISSED! Excellent!

  • theartistformerlyknownasspeedy May 14, 2010

    Why should the taxpayers bear the expense of moving the "logistics" when anyone who wanted to could follow the meeting?

  • theartistformerlyknownasspeedy May 14, 2010

    I believe postponing without 7 days notice would be in violation of the Open Meetings Law.

    They chose to follow the law.

  • theartistformerlyknownasspeedy May 14, 2010

    Common sense prevails.

  • OGE May 14, 2010

    I don't know if the board violated any laws...but they did their best to reasonably accomadate most of the people. The people who have brought this lawsuit on have done it for the sole purpose of having the vote over-turned. I hope the judge is an open-minded person and sees this for what it is. If he rules in favor of the people bringing this lawsuit, it will set a new precedence on how all public meetings are held, and not in a good way.

    What? They have been repeatedly offered the use of the Progress Energy Center and still will not take it. Oh but lets hide behind the logistics of moving the meeting were too difficult to over come in such a short period of time. THEN RESCHEDULE THE MEETING! WOW What a concept!

  • OGE May 14, 2010

    Whether this lawsuit suceeded in a court of law or not it shows that people of Wake County are not happy with the "New" School Board and a negative light has been cast on Tedesco and Crew.

  • Common Man 1964 May 14, 2010

    OK - now I see the Judge has ruled against this baseless and frivolous action. Now on to the 2nd vote on May 18th! Better get all those kids some new Nikes for the walk to their "Community Schools"! Wahoo! Commonsense will always eventually prevail against the dogma of stupidity.

  • WakeHammer May 14, 2010

    Just heard that the judge dismissed the lawsuit, can anyone confirm?

  • nikbrow May 14, 2010

    DISMISSED - As it should be.

  • Common Man 1964 May 14, 2010

    Thanks for the correction Wheelman. Yes, you are absolutely right. So much for talk about elimination of "special interest groups" and "color blind government". Those opposed to the community based schools are nothing more than a special interest group motivated by race. Call it what you will; but it's nothing more than a form of reverse discrimination. If you want a society free of racism, then I challenge those who want it to stop playing the "race card" everytime they don't get their way, or finding some loophole in the laws to afront policies the fairly and duly elected representatives have or are putting into place. If you are indeed the intellectuals you claim to be, argue against this with facts; not the dried up liberal rhetoric of blowhards who make their living in stirring controversy on the backs of the rest of us.