May 14, 2010
RALEIGH – Wake County Superior Court Judge William Pittman ruled late this afternoon that the Wake County School Board acted unreasonably in preventing some members of the public from attending and participating in key Board meeting concerning proposed changes in the school assignment policy. However, in light of changes in the Board's procedures that were adopted as a result of a lawsuit filed on May 6th, Judge Pittman found that the violations that occurred at the March 23rd Board meeting are unlikely to be repeated. The lawsuit had been filed by a group of parents, students, and concerned citizens in Wake County who had been effectively excluded from attending the Board meeting and voicing their opinions on March 23rd, when key decisions were being made concerning the Wake County school assignment policy. The plaintiffs were represented by the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, NC-NAACP, UNC Center for Civil Rights, NC Justice Center and multiple private lawyers.
The following statement may be attributed to Swain Wood, lead attorney who argued the case before Judge Pittman this morning:
We are pleased that the Court agreed with the plaintiffs that the school board's actions at the March 23rd meeting were unreasonable. Our main goal in bringing this lawsuit was to have someone stand up and say that the Board's actions were wrong. That goal has been achieved. The Court gave the benefit of the doubt to the school board that it will fulfill promises to open future meetings to the public. The plaintiffs expect the school board to be true to their word. Above all, we look forward to a cooperative and constructive engagement between the public and the school board in the best interest of all people in Wake County.
As a result of this lawsuit and all the citizens who stood up to protest the Board's unreasonable actions, the School Board significantly amended its policies, and must now take steps towards greater public access and oversight. While we believe they should go still further, the School Board has effectively conceded that its past actions were not in keeping with the spirit of the Open Meetings Law. We sincerely hope that these changes will provide an opportunity to bring a fresh start to the School Board's decision-making process and give rise to a new and healthier relationship between the Board and the public. The Plaintiffs have every intention of carefully monitoring future school board meetings to ensure that the Court's and plaintiffs' concerns are addressed, that the unreasonable actions are not repeated and that the Board achieves full compliance with the Open Meetings Law.