Closed school board sessions violate OML

America has always prided itself on being a nation under the rule of law. This Presidents’ Day weekend seems like a good time to see how well we’re doing at living up to our principles.

For a quick, convenient—and, I hope, totally unrepresentative sample—of how we’re doing at being law-abiding citizens, I took another look at the Bainbridge-Guilford Central School District website. Here is an “Important Notice” from the board of education.

Section of BG website showing regularly scheduled closed meeting

According to case law, that posted policy is contrary to both the letter and spirit of democratic government.

More than 30 years ago (July 21, 1981, to be exact), the courts in the case of Doolittle versus the Board of Education declared that a school board agenda which scheduled an executive session in advance of a meeting violates the Open Meetings Law.

Although that precedent has been available to school boards for over 30 years, the Bainbridge-Guilford Board of Education not only establishes an executive session in advance of the meeting, but reserves an hour for secret deliberations at every meeting of the board as a matter of board policy.