Lawsuit: Richland County School District One violated FOIA law at board meeting

Published: Sep. 16, 2019 at 5:23 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A lawsuit filed earlier this month in Richland County alleges Richland County School District One violated the Freedom of Information Act law after taking action on an issue in executive session at an August board meeting.

The plaintiff in the case, Nancy Miramonti, claims the violation took place at the district’s regularly scheduled board meeting on August 13.

According to the suit, a letter of complaint was given to the board on August 7 to address an “unsatisfactory response from the district related to its transfer request policy.” The letter was supposed to be addressed at the board’s next meeting, which took place on August 13.

Specifically, the complaint letter requested the board take action to instruct the district to “revise the Transfer Request Policy to allow ESOL students impacted by the district’s expansion of the ESOL program to request transfers.”

But the suit alleges the complaint letter was not included on the August 13 meeting agenda. Further, it claims in open session, “Commissioner Jamie Devine referred to the letter, stated it was discussed during the executive session that took place prior to the public session and the board would be responding to the letter via a letter.”

Immediately after, Commissioner Beatrice King raised concerns about the process and the decision to send a response letter without a discussion or vote, the suit states.

Ultimately, the board mailed a response to the complaint letter that states the school board, “cannot share information regarding student transfer requests as it pertains to ESOL participants or their families which is protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.”

The suit concludes the district’s actions in executive session are in violation of the state’s Freedom of Information Act’s mandate of open meetings. The district contends it did not vote in executive session and therefore did not violate state statute.

On Friday, Judge Robert Hood ruled there was sufficient evidence to suggest a violation of FOIA law and asked Miramonti’s attorney, Jonathan Milling, to draft a proposed order.

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