DPS appeals order requiring release recording of closed-door meeting

Denver Public Schools on Monday appealed a judge’s order requiring the district to publicly release a recording of the Board of Education’s five-hour, closed-door meeting the day after the March shooting inside East High School.

DPS argued in its notice of appeal that the contents of the meeting “should not be made public because doing so would do substantial injury to the public interest.”

Last week, Denver District Court Judge Andrew Luxen ordered Colorado’s largest school district to release the recording to a coalition of media organizations — including The Denver Post — by noon Monday after finding that DPS violated state law when the board met in an executive session on March 23.

The media organizations had sued the district, seeking the release of the recording, alleging the school board violated Colorado law by making policy decisions behind closed doors and not properly declaring an executive session before doing so.

After reviewing the recording himself, Luxen on Friday issued an order finding that school board members discussed topics behind closed doors that are not permitted by state law, adopted a policy or took formal action. He also found that the board did not properly notice the executive session.

The board met in an executive session on March 23, a day after a student shot and wounded two administrators inside East. When the board members emerged five hours later, they voted unanimously — and without debate — to approve a memo that temporarily suspended a 2020 board policy banning armed police in schools.

The board recently fully reversed that 2020 policy, allowing school resource officers, or SROs, to return more permanently to campuses. Superintendent Alex Marrero is also expected to release his final districtwide safety plan — which was also a directive included in the memo — later this week.

The Colorado Open Meetings Law states that “the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret,” according to the lawsuit.

DPS filed a notice to appeal Monday morning, seeking a review of most of the judge’s ruling, including his decision to watch the footage last week to determine whether the meeting notice was sufficient and for having “revealed details of the content of the executive session” in his order.

Among his rulings, Luxen found that the board did not discuss the topics cited in its notice for the closed session. The board had cited a law that would have allowed it to meet behind closed doors to discuss security arrangements or investigations, such as defenses against terrorism, or where disclosure might reveal information that could be used to carry out a crime.

But Luxen, in his order, said directors only discussed general security arrangements, including the return of SROs, and said such conversations are not covered by the law cited by the board.

The board had also cited a state law that allows members to meet privately to discuss individual students when the public disclosure of that information would harm the person involved. But Luxen said the discussion that took place regarding a student “would not adversely affect the person involved.”

The news organizations that filed the lawsuit include The Post, Chalkbeat Colorado, Colorado Newsline, KDVR Fox 31, KUSA 9News and the Denver Gazette/Colorado Politics.

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