As you may be aware, there are some legal issues surrounding the Davis School Board’s closure of boundary committee meetings. It has been covered heavily in the Ogden Standard-Examiner. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the SPJ has been asked to weigh in on the issue. Below is a letter sent recently to the school board president and the district superintendent:
W. Bryan Bowles
Davis Board of Education
PO Box 588
45 East State Street
Farmington, UT 84025
Dear Ms. Storey and Mr. Bowles,
On behalf of the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, I am writing to urge the Davis School Board to reconsider its declaration that boundary committee (and other committees, for that matter) meetings are exempt from the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act.
I am aware that you have received a letter from Jeffrey Hunt, legal counsel for the Ogden Standard-Examiner, so I will not go into the legal reasons why the committee meetings are subject to the Act. Instead, I would appeal to you to open the meetings because it is “good government.”
You deal with taxpayer-funded education and the decisions made by the committees of the Davis School Board affect thousands of lives. It is important that the public be kept up to date on all the developments affecting their schools. By closing these meetings, you are in effect shutting the public out of what is rightfully their business. Meetings behind closed doors beg the question: what are you hiding?
I would urge you to reconsider the decision to close these meetings and avoid not only a lengthy legal battle with lawyers, but a loss of trust with your constituents, the taxpaying public.
The SPJ is willing to discuss this and we even offer an educational program about the Act and what constitutes an “open” meeting. If you would like, we can certainly make ourselves available to speak to the School Board about why open government is good government.
President, Utah Headliners Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists