Laramie County School District 1 Sued Over Zoom-Only Meetings
The Laramie County School District 1 is being sued by a group of Laramie County residents, including a state legislator, over barring the public from attending school board meetings in person during the coronavirus pandemic.
You can read the lawsuit here.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several Laramie County residents, including Wyoming Rep. Clarence Styvar, who say they were denied the ability to attend school board meetings on April 19 and May 17 of this year in person.
The public could access those meetings via Zoom, but the lawsuit argues that denying the public the right to attend the meetings in person violates Wyoming's Public Meetings Act.
The lawsuit says Rep. Styvar was threatened with a trespassing citation when he tried to attend a school board meeting on April 19, 2021, in person.
The five other plaintiffs in the lawsuit likewise say they were denied the ability to attend school board meetings in person. At least one of the plaintiffs, Kathleen Bain, claims that she was denied in-person access despite the fact that she is blind and hearing impaired.
The lawsuit argues that in terms of holding Zoom meetings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic "Health Orders, even if accurately interpreted, do not circumvent state statute. Most importantly, school reopening plans do not override state statute.''
Attorney for the plaintiff's Cassie Craven of Longhorn Law gave Townsquare Media of Cheyenne the following statement:
''The public meetings act exists to allow anyone regardless of privilege, age or disability to attend a meeting regarding the operations of their own government. Government must act in a fishbowl and must listen to citizens. This lawsuit demonstrates the differences in all the Plaintiffs yet their similar harms at the hands of this school district. The district’s blatant misinterpretation of the law and their disregard for those with disabilities must not go unchecked. Threatening a citizen with a trespass citation when they simply want a voice in their own government cannot stand. We have a voice and inherent power, the government works for us and they must listen."
Emails to Laramie County School District 1 Superintendent Boyd Brown and an LCSD#1 spokeswoman on Tuesday seeking comment on the suit were not immediately returned. Brown is one of the defendants in the lawsuit, along with the district itself, the school board, and Assistant Superintendent Dave Bartlett.
The lawsuit asks for an order opening up board meetings to the public, unspecified damages, and a judgment that all school board meetings held since March of 2019 were illegal and are void under state law.
Townsquare Media asked Craven via email if the March of 2019 date was a mistake since the policy of closing the meetings to public in-person attendance did not begin until 2020.
She responded as follows:
''You are correct Doug. However, the school district sent an email to one of the plaintiffs stating meetings had been conducted in that fashion since March 2019 so we used that date. I’m sure in depositions they will correct that assertion but for now, we alleged it as they stated it.''
The lawsuit was filed on May 27 in District Court in Wyoming's First Judicial District.