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State Supreme Court Hears School District Open Meetings Case

Case Centers On Dispute About Classroom Textbooks, District Staff Meeting

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard a case Wednesday that will determine if some government meetings are exempt from Wisconsin’s open meetings law.

The state’s highest court has been asked to weigh in on a battle between an Appleton man and his local school district.

In 2011, John Krueger of Appleton was concerned about his local school district using books containing profanity and sexual content for a ninth grade class. When district staff held meetings in response to his concern, they weren‘t open for the public to attend.

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Krueger sued, saying that was a violation of Wisconsin’s opening meetings law.

Rick Esenberg, a lawyer for conservative Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty, who argued Krueger’s case on Wednesday said, “the open meetings is to be construed liberally, in favor of openness and disclosure.”

The state Attorney General’s Office also argued the meeting should have been open to the public.

Lawyers for the Appleton Area School District argued the meeting was administrative work, and wasn‘t creating a policy for the district. They say that means it wasn‘t subject to the open meetings law.

“This is a distinction between the policy making function of government and the administrative function of government,” said Christine Hamiel, the lawyer representing the district.

Prior decisions from circuit and appellate courts were in favor of the district. The state Supreme Court decision is expected in the coming months.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, to include original reporting from WPR.