Skip to comments.Lawsuit seeks to open the book on closed-door meeting
Posted on 08/17/2013 7:29:02 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
MADISON An Appleton Area School District committee charged with reviewing and recommending a reading list for the public school systems ninth-graders proved anything but an open book, according to the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.
In a lawsuit against the school district, Milwaukee-based WILL, a libertarian-leaning public interest firm, asserts the Communication Arts I Materials Review Committee met in secret before handing down its fiction recommendations to a subcommittee of the Appleton School Board.
They didnt follow the open meetings law said Tom Kamenick, associate counsel and open government specialist at WILL. These meetings were completely closed off to the public; they didnt know anything about it until John started asking questions.
The John in question, is Appleton resident John Krueger, who has a child in the district and brought the meetings to WILLs attention. He exchanged emails with the principal. The principal wrote back saying the informal meetings with the 17-member committee, made up of district administrators, teachers and staff, did not fall under state open meeting laws.
Au contraire, argues WILL in the lawsuit.
An order or rule creating a committee need not be formal, the lawsuit states. The open meetings law cannot be evaded by resort to informal directives.
When school boards create these committees to change school curriculum, they have to be open to the public. Kamenick said.
Wisconsins open meetings law requires all meetings of all state and local governmental bodies shall be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law.
The curriculum committee met a number of times between October 2011 and April 2012, according to the lawsuit.
Members were tasked with making a list of approximately 93 fiction books, reading them, accessing their suitability to meet various curricular needs and forwarding a recommended final list to the School Boards programs and services subcommittee. The review was In light of New Common Core State Standards-English Language Arts, according to subsequent School Board meeting minutes included in the court documents.
The committee whittled down the list to 24 books, literature that would contain no profanities or obscenities, and contain no sexualized content, according to the School Board meeting minutes. None of the meetings were preceded by a meeting notice, the lawsuit charges.
Perhaps more galling to Appleton taxpayers is the cost of the 12 books $17,300, according to the minutes.
WILL and Krueger earlier filed a complaint against the district with Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and the Outagamie County District Attorney. The prosecutors failed to respond within the 20 day deadline, so WILL and Krueger followed up with the lawsuit.
District administrators could not be reached for comment Friday morning.
Kamenick insists WILL is not seeking to hold curriculum committee members personally responsible. The lawsuit is more about sending a message.
We just want a judge to say this was a violation of the open law and pass this information to other districts in Wisconsin Kamenick told Wisconsin Reporter. Were really hoping to get a message out statewide.
And the message appears to be spreading. Kamenick said soon after Kruegers complaint, a Pulaski woman contacted her local school board about budget meetings allegedly conducted outside the public eye. In this case, the superintendent agreed to conform with the law, Kamenick said.
This is the kind of thing we want to see more of, he said.
THIS BOOK IS OK: One of the books recommended by an Appleton curriculum committee that met in secret, according to a lawsuit by a conservative public interest group.
Open meetings law in Wisconsin
FReep Mail me if you want on, or off, this Wisconsin interest ping list.
I’d file a lawsuit over the $1,400 each price tag. It would be interesting to see if the seller is related, or is a lodge brother, etc. of any of the committe members.
When I graduated from high school in 1977....we had no recommended reading list. In fact, somewhere after the seventh grade, you could tell there was no formal push by the teachers that you ‘had’ to read any book during the year. They gave extra credit for book reports....but typically....half the kids didn’t bother to read anything.
I suspect this whole recommended reading list agenda really is a waste of time. Just open up the library, and if the kid wants to read...let them find their own books or such. To be honest, with the exception of Steinbeck’s writings....I haven’t read a single book of fiction since 1975. Everything else has to deal with history. And I didn’t need a recommendation list.
I think that book is entirely appropriate. What better example from the past would parallel our present?
Starred Review. Grade 5-8Hitler's plans for the future of Germany relied significantly on its young people, and this excellent history shows how he attempted to carry out his mission with the establishment of the Hitler Youth, or Hitlerjugend, in 1926. With a focus on the years between 1933 and the end of the war in 1945, Bartoletti explains the roles that millions of boys and girls unwittingly played in the horrors of the Third Reich. The book is structured around 12 young individuals and their experiences, which clearly demonstrate how they were victims of leaders who took advantage of their innocence and enthusiasm for evil means. Their stories evolve from patriotic devotion to Hitler and zeal to join, to doubt, confusion, and disillusion. (An epilogue adds a powerful what-became-of-them relevance.) The large period photographs are a primary component and they include Nazi propaganda showing happy and healthy teens as well as the reality of concentration camps and young people with large guns. The final chapter superbly summarizes the weighty significance of this part of the 20th century and challenges young readers to prevent history from repeating itself. Bartoletti lets many of the subjects' words, emotions, and deeds speak for themselves, bringing them together clearly to tell this story unlike anyone else has.Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library, IL Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Our private school has a required reading list for the summer and one for the school year.
They have a few copies each in the library but lucky for us, most of the books are grade level classics that are easy to find in the used book stores around here.
IIRC we got this summers reading list for under $10 at “2nd and Charles”.
Hmmm! I wonder what the school board felt it needed to hide by having “informal” closed meetings.
There nothing like the smell of a good book burning in the morning.
If you read the article you will find that nobody is quibbling over the Hitler Youth book. Indeed, they all approved it, including the people suing. I think the point of the article is that the School Board violated the Open Meetings law that governs meetings in Wisconsin.
I hope the $1400 price tag is not PER BOOK. I hope that represnts the cost for enough copies of each book to supply a whole clas.
THAT is exactly the point. Texas used to have a law that allowed parental input on TEXT books that are purchased each year by Texas School Boards. Teachers and other liberals just hated that law, and I’m not sure that it is still in effect.
The reason the law was hated so much by the liberals is that most folks in TX are conservtive and the parent groups were always over-ruling the more radical propagandists. Since TX (and CA) are so huge, publishing companies would not produce a book that wasn’t approved by the TX and CA committees.
School committees just hate input from the parents and they’d like to keep the parents out of the oop whenever possible unless it is to serve as a claque supporting some cause that the teachers like such as shorter working hours and higher pay.
Yeah, AFTER my second cup of coffee, that occurred to me as being the real situation. I was thinking of some of the prices of my college books :-).
Well, text books and library editions are more expensive, but I don’t think they’ve reached those levels yet!
I’m gonna guess this one...
...didn’t make the list.