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Citizens for Liberty appeals open meetings issue

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Citizens for Liberty has accused Rapid City Area Schools of violating the state’s open meetings laws.

After a Seventh Circuit judge granted summary judgment to the school district in January, Citizens for Liberty appealed.

The South Dakota Supreme Court held oral arguments on Nov. 6.

The opposing parties agree that state law requires a public forum at regularly scheduled school board meetings. But they disagree on how to define the term “regularly scheduled.”

The attorney for the school district said by law, regularly scheduled meetings are set annually on the second Monday in July. Emily Smoragiewicz told justices that other meetings are special meetings, and the district is not required to invite comment at an open forum.

“When the school board feels like it needs more discussion or investigation about a particular subject,” she said, “that’s when they call a special meeting.”

According to briefs, those meetings include retreats, executive sessions, and study sessions.

Kenneth Jasper represents Citizens for Liberty. He said the school district constantly holds meetings not scheduled annually in July, and the district makes decisions at these special meetings that equate to official action without public input.

During arguments, Justice Mark Salter asked Jasper to clarify:

JUSTICE SALTER: “It seems to me that an underlying theme is that you’re somewhat skeptical that these special meetings aren’t really all that special.”

KENNETH JASPER “That’s correct. Because they’re routinely—regularly, if you will—scheduled. Basically, like clockwork.”

Citizens for Liberty said even if the school district is not violating state law, it is violating its own policies, which require a public forum for all school district meetings.

The Supreme Court will deliberate and issue an opinion at a later date.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007.