Monday, April 25, 2022

Let's Talk: Lawsuits

Source: Adam Maida / The Atlantic.

During the public comment section of the April 11, 2022, Richardson ISD school board meeting, one speaker raised a concern about how a complaint they submitted is being handled.

No board member responded. Of course not. Buried in a video explaining public comment procedure, the RISD says, "The board will not engage in dialog with the speakers." I've suggested a way to engage without running afoul of the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA). It can be done.

Public speakers are given three minutes. I'm boiling down one person's comment to two sentences:

"This morning I served the interim superintendent with a 26 page formal complaint...One misstep and it could be a lawsuit."

Let's talk. Not knowing what the complaint is, I can't speak to it. The complainant must be so confident his tough-guy threat of a lawsuit will be enough to get satisfaction that he doesn't need to bother with rallying support in the court of public opinion. It's hard to rally support without even a hint at the nature of the complaint.

So instead, let's talk about lawsuits the RISD is party to, in general. I would like to know how many such lawsuits there are, where RISD is either a defendant or a plaintiff. A simple web page listing all such active cases, with court case numbers, would be useful for audience members like me who are left scratching their heads when members of the public refer to lawsuits.

I believe, but I can't point to any evidence for this, that RISD is involved in exactly two lawsuits at present. In one, the Texas Attorney General sued the district for violating the Governor's Executive Order GA-36 prohibiting the mandating of face coverings in response to the COVID-19 disaster. In the other, RISD joined other school districts in a lawsuit against the governor over his ban of mask mandates at school, alleging that he exceeded his authority. Given that all facemask mandates in school in the state of Texas have been lifted, the lawsuits seem moot to me, but Gov. Abbott and Atty Gen Paxton are in election campaigns, so don't expect them to drop what they see as a wedge political advantage for them.

That's it. If there are any other active lawsuits involving RISD, by this month's speaker or by anyone else, I'm not aware of it.

Unless a judge has issued a gag order, a school district may choose to discuss a lawsuit, but I can understand why it may choose not to. As a general rule, speaking out of court carries a greater chance of hurting your case than helping it. But a school district should, at minimum, communicate to its community what lawsuits it is a party to. If RISD does that, I can't find it on the district's website.

We've heard from one member of the public. And now we've heard from me. It's time to hear from RISD. Come on, RISD. Let's talk.

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