Ohio County teacher files lawsuit against school board for alleged “illegal” executive session

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A teacher from Ohio County is taking legal action after the county’s board of education went into a private executive session during the teachers’ strike earlier this month.

On February 19 (the first day of the teachers’ strike), the Ohio County Board of Education met along with concerned teachers and parents to discuss the districts future actions in regards to the strike. At the beginning of the meeting, board members walked out and went into “executive session.” The rest of the room was left to listen to the House of Delegates debate what was to come of Senate Bill 451.

That executive session, special education teacher Jennifer Craig says, was illegal, and is the grounds for a lawsuit filed in Ohio County Circuit Court on Monday.

In the suit, Craig seeks for not only the disclosure what was discussed in that February 19 executive session, but a prohibition on one from occurring on February 25, which she claims “is likely to occur.”

If further executive sessions are held, Craig claims that she and the public “will be irreparably deprived of her statutory right to participate in a public hearing,” and that the board “has no intentions of discussing their opinions in a public forum,” as required by state law.

Craig also serves as the Ohio County Education Association’s president.

In Charleston, the West Virginia legislature is considering a bill that would expand the power to go into such closed-door executive sessions to discuss employee strikes. The bill was asked by a Northern Panhandle board of education to be considered, but the board was not specifically named, according to the court filing.

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UPDATE, 3:39 p.m.: The Ohio County Board of Education has issued a statement in response to the pending lawsuit.

“We are aware there was an action taken against the Ohio County BOE and we are not going to comment on pending litigation,” reads the statement. “We will speak through our attorneys and our pleadings.”

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UPDATE: 9:30 p.m.: 7News was able to speak with Jennifer Craig at Monday night’s Ohio County Board of Education Meeting. 

She reiterated her concerns that the executive session violated the state’s open meeting law. 

“Power in being an elected official does not come as an elected official, that it belongs to the people to govern themselves,” she said.  “And how can we be informed, an informed electorate, if elected officials conduct business in private?” 

This is a developing story, stay with 7News for updates.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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