‘Atlanta Journal-Constitution’ Files Complaint About Closed School Board Meetings

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By: Joe Strupp

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution filed a complaint with the Georgia state attorney general’s office Wednesday, claiming a local school board had illegally closed meetings.

The complaint says the Clayton County school board “has kept the public from hearing discussions on the district’s accreditation. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools gave the district nine mandates to meet by Sept. 1 or lose accreditation,” the paper reported.

“They have resorted to conducting the meaningful portion of their meetings in illegal executive sessions despite the fact that Clayton County residents are desperately seeking ? and legally entitled to ? information to ensure that the board is taking steps to address SACS’s concerns,” the paper’s attorney, Thomas Clyde, wrote to the attorney general.

“The Journal-Constitution requested the attorney general enforce the Open Meetings Act and consider criminal enforcement if the board continues to ignore the law,” the paper reported. Reached by the paper at home, school board chairman Eddie White said he had not seen the complaint and declined to comment.

On April 14, the school board met behind closed doors for more than two hours with two SACS officials and two state board of education members appointed by the governor to help Clayton, according to the paper.

The next day, White said the board was conducting a “self-evaluation,” which was “not appropriate for the masses.”

The board chairman also has refused to give specific reasons for closing meetings ? as required by law ? or sign an affidavit that the closed discussion fell within legal exemptions, Clyde told the paper.

“On April 15, the Journal-Constitution sent a letter to the board attorneys and chairman asking for an explanation of the closed meetings. The board did not respond,” the paper reported. “On April 16, Clyde addressed the board before its closed meeting and requested a reason for the private session. The board refused to give a reason or hear the attorney’s objection.”

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