Posted By Eric Ethington (Author) on June 19, 2012
While defending a decision by the Davis County School Board not to let LGBT parents be added to a meeting agenda, District Spokesman Chris Williams may have inadvertently revealed an enormous violation of Utah governmental transparency laws.
After the Davis County School Board refused to let LGBT parents add their grievance over a book mentioning gay parents being stripped from library shelves onto their meeting agenda, Davis County School District spokesman Chris Williams fielded questions from the parents in the hallway outside the board meeting.
The decision to remove the book from school library shelves was made by a mysterious committee, which is apparently comprised of 7 members, including parents, school staff and district representatives. This committee made the executive decision to remove the book “In Our Mothers’ House” from the shelves of school libraries, and PRIDEinUtah has been told that the school board does not have the authority to override individual decisions made by this committee even if they wanted to.
Weston Clark, a gay father and former Davis County school teacher questioned Mr. Williams about the committee yesterday. “Who exactly is on this committee?” Clark asked. “I’m sorry, but we won’t be releasing those names,” was Williams reply. The spokesman also refused to provide access to the minutes of the committee meeting, or any other materials which might shed light on exactly how the decision was made. When pushed further, Mr. Williams went as far as to say that the meeting minutes were not even subject to Utah’s GRAMA laws, and while the public is welcome to submit a GRAMA request for the meeting minutes, the district may refuse to recognize or respond to it. He also added that couldn’t say who in the school district provides any oversight of the committee.
In other words, this mysterious committee which is not comprised of elected officials, has the ability to make binding decisions on the school district without ANY form of public oversight whatsoever.
Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act states very clearly that all meetings where official action will be taken must be posted publicly at least 24 prior to ensure that the public has full opportunity to be heard and to participate in government. In addition, official minutes must be taken which the date, time, and place of the meeting; the names of members present and absent, the substance of matters discussed or decided, a record of votes, the name of each person who provided testimony and the substance in brief of their testimony; and any other information that any member requests be entered in the minutes or recording.
But it seems that the Davis County School District is above such laws.
Whatever side of the issue you are on, regarding the banning of a book that mentions gay parents, the idea that Davis County School District has created it’s very own shadow government should be frightening. The entire idea behind American government is that it is the public who is ultimately in control – able to supervise, monitor, and observe all proceedings without fear of decisions being made behind our backs.