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Path open to an Open Door ruling

While the Indiana State Board of Education’s political battle with state Superintendent Glenda Ritz rages on, a Marion County judge has ruled the board’s legal battle also will continue.

Judge Cynthia Ayers denied the board’s request to dismiss a suit by a group of plaintiffs that includes Julia Hollingsworth of the Fort Wayne Community Schools board. The suit alleges the 10 state board members violated Indiana’s Open Door Law when they authorized – by email – the addition of their signatures to a letter sent to Senate President Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma regarding Ritz’s handling of school A to F data. Indiana law requires all official action by governing boards of public agencies be open to the public.

The Indiana attorney general’s office first argued that the lawsuit did not meet the 30-day deadline for challenging an action. The judge rejected that motion and another that argued that no violation occurred because no meeting took place. Ayers cited a provision in the state law noting that “It is the intent of this chapter that the official action of public agencies be conducted and taken openly ... in order that the people be fully informed.”

The ruling clears the way for the plaintiffs’ attorney to examine internal documents in preparation for trial. A final ruling could provide the needed case law in matters involving electronic communication by board members – a practice that clearly violates the spirit of Indiana’s Open Door Law.