Denver school board’s executive session violated state law, judge rules

Denver’s school board violated Colorado law when members met behind closed doors the day after the shooting inside East High School, a judge ruled Friday, ordering Denver Public Schools to publicly release the recording of the entire meeting within three days.

The Denver Post and five other Colorado news organizations sued the school district, alleging the Board of Education violated the Colorado Open Meetings Law when it met in an executive session — which was closed to the public — one day after a student shot and injured two administrators inside East.

As part of the lawsuit, the media coalition sought the release of the meeting’s recording.

Denver District Court Judge Andrew Luxen on Friday issued an order that found the executive session was “convened in violation of statute” because the topics discussed during the five-hour meeting were not properly noticed beforehand.

As a result, “no resolution, rule, regulation, ordinance or formal action of the Denver School Board adopted during the executive session is valid, by operation of law,” Luxen wrote.

Earlier in the week, Luxen had ordered DPS to turn over a recording of the meeting to the court for a review, saying that there was “a reasonable belief” that the board adopted a policy or position or discussed topics behind closed doors that were not permitted by state statute.

When the school board emerged from its executive session on March 23, members had a prepared memo that temporarily suspended a 2020 board policy banning armed police in schools. Board members voted unanimously to approve the memo without any debate.

The board fully reversed that 2020 policy last week, allowing school resource officers — or SROs — to return more permanently. Superintendent Alex Marrero is expected to release his final districtwide safety plan, which he has been crafting following the board’s directive in the March 23 memo, next week.

The media organizations alleged that the board violated state law by making policy decisions behind closed doors and by not properly declaring an executive session beforehand.

In his order, Luxen found that the board did not discuss the topics cited in the meeting notice for the executive session. While the board discussed general security arrangements, including the return of school resource officers to Denver campuses, such discussions were not covered by the law cited, he wrote.

Luxen has ordered DPS and the school board to release the recording of the entire executive session to the media organizations and the public by noon Monday.

The news organizations that filed the lawsuit include The Post, Chalkbeat Colorado, Colorado Newsline, KDVR Fox 31, KUSA 9News and the Denver Gazette/Colorado Politics.

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