Judge dismisses lawsuit against Wake school board

Posted May 14, 2010
Updated May 17, 2010

— A Superior Court judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against the Wake County Board of Education alleging that it violated state law by limiting access to a key public meeting in March.

Judge William Pittman ruled that the school board took reasonable measures to provide public access to the meeting, and he could not conclude "that any alleged violation was committed in bad faith for the purpose of evading or subverting the public policy embodied in the Open Meetings Law."

A group of Wake County citizens – many who were denied access to that meeting – wanted the court to reverse the actions taken at the March 23 meeting, in which members adopted a resolution regarding a controversial idea to change the way the school system assigns students to schools.

They alleged that the school board made no effort to make it possible for everyone to attend – even though larger venues were available – and made no attempt to provide adequate audio or video coverage of the meeting to the public waiting outside the meeting room.

In addition, they claimed a ticket-distribution policy put in place prior to the meeting was unfair.

Pittman found the policy reasonable but said requiring ticketholders to remain on premises hours before the meeting and failing to make accommodations for members of the public who are disabled was unreasonable.

But he said the board is taking "reasonable action to implement measures to address alleged past violations of the Open Meetings Law."

"There are no grounds in law to invalidate any action of the board," he wrote.

Swain Wood, an attorney for the plaintiffs, called Pittman's ruling a significant victory.

"He really put the burden on the school board, going forward, to make sure their actions are in line with this order," Wood said.

"(The changes the board has made) were only put in place because members of the public were standing up – and also through letters, e-mails and this lawsuit – and saying you're being unreasonable," he said.

During the March 23 meeting, the board voted 5-4 to move forward with developing a student assignment policy in which children would go to schools closer to their homes. The model means moving away from a decade-old policy of busing students so schools across the district are diverse.

Proponents of the community-based assignment model say that parents will have more choices and more involvement in their children's schooling, while opponents say the plan will create pockets of poverty and re-segregate the school system.

The debate has been emotional and drew large numbers of people for and against the idea at recent school board meetings.

The board voted May 4 on the actual policy and is expected to take a final vote at its May 18 meeting.

Several groups are urging people to attend the meeting in large numbers to demonstrate their opposition to the policy.


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  • wildcat May 17, 2010


  • superman May 17, 2010

    You havent even seen the beginning of law suits against the board yet-- Just wait until the community schools issue is voted on by the board. Schools receive millions in federal funding and if they decide the policy promotes segregation-- federal funding can be withheld or denied. The board should allocat a couple million for attorney fees. The judge certainly realized the board acted wrong. 5 votes for and 4 votes against community based schools is certainly not a wide margin. Just 5 people having their will over 4. This issue will end in court and in Washington.

  • Shadow213 May 14, 2010

    rvwest-- it's not the time spent on the buses. it's the teachers and the classroom. not all teachers are created equal-- the best teachers are in high demand and can teach at schools with a better reputation...and schools with a better rep serve to create more opportunities for the students to succeed.

  • josephlawrence43 May 14, 2010

    unusual---common sense rears it battered and bruised head--hopefully not for the last time..

  • injameswetrust2003 May 14, 2010

    Good. What a ridiculous lawsuit anyway. A slap in the face to the taxpayers of Wake Co. to have to deal with this stuff from the liberals. Now we can move on, hopefully.

  • C6-YA May 14, 2010

    What a waste of time and resources!

  • knowitall May 14, 2010

    Great job school board attorneys!

  • cuffusion May 14, 2010

    Oh no..not the liberal cry of .. "its unfair" .. its not the schools that are failing the students .. its the parents .. they abandon their responsibility to provide their children a basic set of skills before they go to school and expect the school to teach them from scratch.. all the while holding back those students with responsible parents from learning..

    When did all sense of self responsibility erode to nothing in this Country.. its always let the Govt do it.. and we all know that the Government does a poor job at everything.. so why would you expect that the children would excel?? you whiners take away the schools ability to effectively manage the behavior of students.. force teachers to adopt a lowest denominator approach to teaching.. neglecting those students who can perform.. and expect a graduating class of Einsteins...

    Lets focus our efforts on forcing underperforming parents to take responsibility - raise their own children.. not rely upon society to do it..

  • rvwest May 14, 2010

    I don't understand the argument that busing students around the county to achieve whatever balance it is that some folks seem to want will somehow improve the education of the students. What is it about spending a couple of hours on a bus each day that improves a child's ability to learn.?

  • blackdog May 14, 2010

    Whatever occurs....the result will tell the facts.