After reviewing multiple inquiries in light of recent controversy involving the Harrisonville Board of Education, the state attorney general’s office has closed the case without any sanctions.
One formal complaint and two inquiries regarding alleged open meeting and records violations had been submitted to Attorney General Chris Koster since this summer.
Some parents in the Harrisonville district say they are still frustrated with the school board after allegations arose in May that board members were out of line when they sent lengthy surveys to classroom teachers. Critics said the surveys didn’t pose relevant questions about the education of students, and some feared the surveys would be used to justify unwarranted action against staff members.
According to meeting notes from the board’s Sept. 16 meeting, a remark was made that not all board members have seen the actual survey responses, which are currently sealed.
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School board member Jerald Dickey said that because it wasn’t any secret that the board is under Sunshine Law litigation, he wants to keep those documens closed until the issue is resolved with Koster’s office.
Dickey followed his comments with a motion to keep the surveys closed until current litigation with the AG is resolved. The motion passed 4-2.
The Harrisonville district’s attorney, Rachel England, responded later to Dickey’s comments.
“The district is not involved in any lawsuit or litigation regarding Sunshine Law violations,” England said. “The attorney general is investigating a Sunshine Law complaint that was filed with their office.”
Leigh Ann Carl, a Harrisonville parent, said the lack of transparency and unity among the board members has put the district in a very negative spotlight throughout the county.
“I would love to see more unity (among the board),” Carl said. “I would love to see people acting in a professional manner, people giving respect to fellow board members, and respect to our administrators.”
In an Aug. 7 letter to the school board signed on Koster’s behalf by Casey Lawrence, the attorney general’s Sunshine Law coordinator, the district was notified that the complainant communicated concern about possible violations of open meeting laws.
In the letter, Lawrence asked the district to respond to the allegations and provide documents.
Responding to the letter on Aug. 27, England said the district acknowledged that it failed to give proper notice to a July 13 subcommittee meeting but took appropriate and effective remedial action with respect to that meeting.
Koster’s office announced its decision last week.
Carl said she has been attending school board and subcommittee meetings since the issue with the surveys erupted last spring.
“The ones who are paying the most is our students. They have teachers, administrators who aren’t able to attend these meetings out of fear of losing their jobs,” Carl said.
“When you go to work each day in that situation, you’re not able to give students the best of you, as a teacher or an administrator. We’ve already seen some teacher and administratration turnover.”