Three members of the Region 10 Board of Education and their attorney tried to downplay remarks made about a student, who was not the topic of an executive session on June 11.
At a Freedom of Information Commission hearing Thursday, Peter Turner, a board of education member for 14 years, testified that last spring a lot of people around town where talking about Avery Doninger, the student who was banned from running for class secretary after calling school administrators “douche bags” on an online journal.
Mr. Turner said prior to the June meeting he had a conversation with the First Selectman of Burlington, who indicated there was a chance “we were going to be sued,” by the Doninger’s. He said toward the end of the executive session which was called for the purpose of discussing pending litigation filed by another family that resides in Region 10 and a personnel issue, he asked the School Superintendent Paula Schwartz if she had heard of any litigation regarding the Doninger’s.
“I brought this up because we were talking about potential litigation,” he said. The Doninger’s attorney asked Turner why he didn’t ask the question during the public portion of the meeting and he said, “anything having to do with litigation, we do in executive session.”
While the Doninger’s did finally file a civil rights lawsuit against Region 10 administrators, they didn’t do it until July 16.
Another Region 10 school board member, Beth Duffy, testified Thursday that the conversation about Doninger was brief. When asked what brief meant, she had trouble putting a number on it. “I recalled it as brief, but I couldn’t put a number on it,” she said.
In closing, Region 10 attorney Christine Chinni said the school board members did not violate the Freedom of Information Act and besides, “public agencies can’t be expected to gag a member mid-sentence,” when they’re asking a question. There was no decision made and no notes taken during the session, she said.
Turner said that Superintendent Schwartz answered his question by telling the board the situation was being handled administratively.
The Freedom of Information Commission hearing officer, Attorney Victor Perpetua, will file a report with the full commission after reviewing all the evidence. The report, which may take several weeks or months to file, will then go before the commission for a vote.
Click here for Andy Thibault’s report on the meeting Thursday.