R.I. Superior Court Judge Brian Stern today denied the Barrington School Committee’s motion to dismiss an open meetings lawsuit filed against it by the RI ACLU and the Barrington Times.
The lawsuit challenges a closed meeting the School Committee held last February to discuss the merits of instituting a mandatory breathalyzer policy for all students attending school dances. The school committee relied on the OMA’s “litigation” exemption to meet in private, but the lawsuit, filed by RI ACLU cooperating attorneys Howard Merten and Keith Fayan, notes that at the time of the executive session “there was no litigation pending or threatened” and “there was not even a specific policy in place that could have been challenged through litigation.”
Attorneys for the school committee argued today that the lawsuit should be dismissed because neither the ACLU nor the newspaper had the requisite standing under the open meetings law to bring the lawsuit. However, Judge Stern rejected that argument, noting that the open meetings statute provides members of the public broad authority to promote the law’s guarantee that “public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy.”
The judge indicated that a schedule would be set for further proceedings and arguments on the broader legal issues raised by the ACLU and disputed by the school committee.