Lawsuit alleges board skirted open meetings laws, violated public trust
BATON ROUGE, La. (WDSU) – The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office has filed a lawsuit against the Jefferson Parish School Board alleging it violated open meeting laws repeatedly in December. The lawsuit was filed in the 24th Judicial District Court Thursday.
The lawsuit alleges members of the board met multiple times to develop disciplinary policies for virtual learning behind closed doors and without publishing a written record of the meeting or notifying the public in advance.
The lawsuit argues “The exclusion of the public from the meetings of the Disciplinary Review Committee Board meeting evinces a fundamental lack of understanding and/or complete disregard of the open meetings law on the part of the School Board, its Disciplinary Review Committee, its superintendent and its board president, which has caused irreparable harm to citizens interested in participating in meeting of their school board, and accordingly, an injunction should issue in due course directing the defendants to strictly adhere to and abide by the open meetings law in all future proceedings of the Disciplinary Review Committee.”
At the Dec. 4 disciplinary hearing for two students recommended for expulsion and ultimately suspended for moving a BB gun in their bedrooms during a virtual class, the school board and its attorneys attempted to block WDSU from filming the public hearing.
Reporter Jennifer Crockett refused to leave or remove the camera, telling the board, “What I am not going to do is turn the camera off and let a public board decide what is recorded in a public meeting. That’s simply not what we do.”
Board members said Jefferson Parish employees were being compelled to testify and feared for their safety.
Former School Board President Mark Morgan, who retired from the school board after the hearing, asked “If we give you the option to film people who are okay being filmed or film nothing, what’s your choice?” Crockett responded, “I would film nothing and then expect you to hear from our attorneys.”
The board ultimately agreed to allow WDSU to film the public meeting. It decided not to remove the suspensions from the student’s record at the hearing.
Solicitor General Liz Murrell was at the hearing but the board refused to let her testify. Murrell works with Attorney General Jeff Landry at the Louisiana Department of Justice. The office did not comment on the lawsuit.
In response to a request for comment from WDSU Thursday evening, the Jefferson Parish School Board released the following statement: “We just recently received the lawsuit and are reviewing it with our legal counsel.”