Open School Board Meetings

By Lawrence Hardy

In math, it’s called the Substitution Principle. When used by school boards, it’s a great way to avoid a public meeting.

First, the math -- middle school algebra, to be precise: If A equals B, and B equals C, then, logically, A equals C. No need to compare the two.

Do you see where this is going?

Let’s apply this rule to our hypothetical school board, whose four-member majority wants to reach an understanding -- in private. No problem. Board Member A simply speaks with Board Member B, or perhaps both B and C. No four-member quorum, no public meeting. Then A -- and perhaps B or C -- meets with Board Member D. Again, no quorum, no public meeting. Later, they all go into public session with the three-member minority and make the same decision they presumably made in the closed sessions.

Is this legal? That depends on where you live, because open meeting laws vary from state to state. While it’s safe to say that courts in most states would look askance at such “walking quorums,” that’s not always the case. 

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