High Court won't rule on Rapid City schools open meeting violations, litigants find validation in opinion
Lawsuit stemmed from school board not accepting public input at 22 of 24 meetings between July 2020 and June 2021
A Black Hills school board should have allowed public comment at a series of official meetings under South Dakota law. But because state policymakers have since modified the statute at the center of a resulting lawsuit, the state’s highest court will not rule on whether a violation occurred.
The South Dakota Supreme Court Thursday, in a unanimous opinion, opted not to make a decision as to whether Rapid City Area Schools violated South Dakota law when the RCAS School Board did not allow for any open forums at 22 of 24 meetings held between July 2020 and June 2021. The case, brought by the grassroots activism group Citizens for Liberty, centered around the phrase "regularly scheduled official meeting” found in South Dakota open meetings laws. The statute at the time had specified governing bodies – like school boards, city councils, and county commissions – had to take public comment at "regularly scheduled" official meetings. But public input was not required during meetings considered "special."
RCAS argued that the meetings were special and not subject to public input requirements, an argument that a circuit court judge agreed with Citizens for Liberty’s lawsuit was dismissed.
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