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WILL has filed a complaint asserting that a committee of the Appleton Area School District Board of Education violated the state Open Meetings Law. The complaint was filed on behalf of a district taxpayer, John Krueger.
Over a period of six months, a special committee created by the Appleton School Board reviewed potential works of fiction to include in a ninth grade reading curriculum. That committee was comprised of teachers and district administrators, who winnowed down a list of over 90 books, forwarding a list of 24 recommended books to the school board. None of its numerous meetings were open to the public, depriving parents, taxpayers, and even other teachers of their right to observe the process.
“State statutes give school boards the authority to select textbooks and approve curricula for their courses,” said Tom Kamenick, associate counsel and open government specialist at WILL. “When a school board delegates that authority to another body, the open meetings laws still apply.”
“Not only did this committee conduct closed-door meetings contrary to state law,” said Krueger, “but no minutes were kept of its discussions or how the members voted. The inability to attend meetings and the lack of records means the public will never know how the committee came to its conclusions or whether the process it used was fair and unbiased. This is a serious violation of the public trust.”
The complaint was sent, as required by law, to the Attorney General and the Outagamie County District Attorney. If neither of those offices files a lawsuit within 20 days, we will decide whether to bring a lawsuit ourselves. State statutes give citizens the right to act as “private attorney generals” and bring open meetings and records lawsuits on behalf of the people of the State.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, as always, remains vigilant for any unit of government that does not follow the law, and works to advance the public interest by encouraging governmental units to comply with the letter and spirit of laws designed to inform the electorate and provide the public with complete information regarding the conduct of governmental business.
You can read a copy of the complaint here.
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