Montanan Shenanigans

There’s rumbling in Darby, Montana. The school board there seems to be ready to adopt an ID curriculum, and they anticipate lawsuits over it, although they have support from the Speaker of the House of the state legislature. But now, the board’s in trouble because they held a behind-closed-doors meeting where they apparently decided to rescind a job offer extended to a new superintendent of schools, and offer it instead to another person because of his “a sense of strong spirituality.”

The Ravalli Republic, a local newspaper, has filed suit against the board for its closed meetings. Now, Montana law on open meetings appears to be pretty strong–the state Constitution, Art. II s 9, declares that “No person shall be deprived of the right to…observe the deliberations of all public bodies…except in cases in which the demand of individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure,” and under the statutes enforcing open meetings requirements, courts can void decisions made at closed-door meetings. See, e.g., Bryan v. Yellowstone County Elementary School Dist. No. 2, 312 Mont. 257, 274 (Mont.,2002) (“open meetings violations remain of utmost concern to this Court. Nothing in this opinion should be interpreted to suggest that violations of open meeting laws by any entity subject to those laws will not result in voiding decisions so reached. We will not hesitate to affirm a district court’s determination to void such decisions or reverse a court’s refusal to do so.” quoting Common Cause of Montana v. Statutory Committee to Nominate Candidates for Com’r of Political Practices, 263 Mont. 324, 333-34 (1994)). Why the school board secrecy, though? Because not all the parents are real thrilled about their kids being taught lies. Not to mention the fact that “Both federal and Montana’s civil rights acts forbid religious discrimination by employers.”</b> Wolfe v. State, Dept. of Labor and Industry, Bd. of Personnel Appeals ex rel. Helena Educ. Ass’n, 255 Mont. 336, 339 (1992). See also McCann v. Trustees, Dodson School Dist., 249 Mont. 362, 364 (1991).