South Florida Sun-Sentinel by Rafael Olmeda
February 1, 2019
The South Florida Sun Sentinel filed suit Friday against the Broward School Board over closed-door meetings between school district officials, board members and the parents of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Closing the meetings to the public violates the state’s open-meetings law and prevents the community from monitoring the school district and its official actions, the lawsuit contends.
The legal action represents the newspaper’s latest challenge to public officials who have tried repeatedly to conceal what went wrong before, during and after the day former student Nikolas Cruz entered the Parkland high school and murdered 17 people.
In Friday’s lawsuit, the news organization accused the School Board and Superintendent Robert Runcie of violating the “Sunshine Law,” which guarantees public access to official government meetings.
“We are taking the School Board to court on behalf of the public so that we can report on the school safety concerns of Marjory Stoneman Douglas parents,” said Sun Sentinel Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. “Not everyone who has an interest in school safety can attend, and we need to report on the meetings taking place with public officials. We contend that the School Board lawyers are violating the Sunshine Laws, which were designed to provide transparency.”
The newspaper wants a judge to order the school district to open the meetings to the public and have an official record of what transpires.
The first closed-door meeting was held Thursday for parents of ninth-graders. Present were Runcie, his chief of staff and the district’s chief of support services. School Board member Lori Alhadeff, who lost a daughter in the shooting, was also present — and highly critical of Runcie.
A second school board member, Nora Rupert, attended the meeting, but lawyers advised her not to speak because, they said, there is no violation of the Sunshine Law if the public officials do not converse.