Criminal Justice

Ritz Suing Board of Education Members

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October 22, 2013 — The State’s Department of Education says Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz is suing the State’s Board of Education members in court.

DOE says, “In response to apparent violations of the Open Door Law by members of the State Board of Education, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz filed suit today naming ten members of the Board as defendants.  The lawsuit alleges that the named members of the State Board violated Indiana’s Open Door Law by taking action in secret by drafting, or directing the drafting of, a letter they sent to President Pro Tempore Long and Speaker Bosma dated October 16, 2013.  The suit seeks to prevent the State Board of Education from continued violations of the Open Door Law and declaratory relief.”

The Education Department’s statement says the lawsuit claims that ten members of the State Board of Education broke Indiana’s Open Door Law when they took action by requesting Senator Long and Speaker Bosma appoint Indiana’s Legislative Services Agency to determine 2012-2013 A-F grades calculations for Indiana schools.  The suit says no public notice was issued in advance for a meeting that allowed the action and that Ritz was unaware of the action until after it occurred, despite her role as Chair of the State Board of Education.

Ritz says, “When I was sworn in to office, I took an oath to uphold the laws of the State of Indiana.  I take this oath very seriously, and I was dismayed to learn that other members of the State Board have not complied with the requirements of the law.  While I respect the commitment and expertise of members of the board individually, I feel they have over-stepped their bounds.

“Since my inauguration, I have worked tirelessly to communicate openly with the Board and the public.  I do not take this action lightly, but my obligations as elected state Superintendent require it.   I look forward to continuing to work to improve education for all Indiana students in a fair, transparent and collaborative manner.”

The lawsuit Ritz v. Elsener, et al has been filed in the Marion Circuit Court.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence responded to the lawsuit through the Governor’s Office  Communications Director Christy Denault, who says, “Governor Pence strongly supports the actions taken by the bipartisan membership of the State Board of Education to ensure the timely completion of last year’s A-F school accountability grades.  The Governor is confident that all relevant Indiana laws were followed.  Because teachers and schools depend on these letter grades for salary increases, performance bonuses and federal funding, the Governor will continue to work in good faith with the State Board of Education and the Indiana Department of Education to get the job done for our schools and our kids.”

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