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Jasper County School District’s Motion to Dismiss Granted –

JASPER CO., IL. (ECWd) –

Jasper County School Board Member Jed Earnest’s lawsuit against the School District and certain board members was terminated in March of 2019 by the Federal Court in Granting the District’s Motion to dismiss.

The Federal Court found, based on the evidence presented, Earnest was not deprived of a constitutional right, and was not deprived of due process.

Additionally, the Court stated:

“The only question this Court must answer is whether Earnest was deprived of a constitutionally protected interest and, if so, whether he was provided due process in connection with that deprivation.”

“Earnest did not have a constitutionally protected right to confidential information, to be free of surreptitious efforts to remove him from the Board, or to be free from censure. Nor does he have a protected interest in feeling like he was treated fairly by other members of the Board. . . Indeed, none of those asserted rights are protected because they are not founded in state or federal positive law and are not freestanding substantive entitlements.”

“No evidence suggests that anything other than limited confidential information about finances or about specific students and staff were withheld from him.”

We obviously disagree with the second paragraph above, do to at least one case in Illinois (Ebert v. Thompson) declaring that board members did have a right to all records of the public body they served on, including any alleged confidential records.

Ebert v. Thompson:

“The plaintiff is an elected public official. Part of the duties of the plaintiff as an elected public official are to audit. As such, the elected public official is entitled to reasonable access to the books and records necessary to perform that function.” The court then granted plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief and ordered the records turned over to her. Defendants did not appeal this order.”

By limiting confidential access to finances, and student and staff, Earnest could no longer perform his duty to audit the inner workings of the public body he was an elected member of.

But, we are not the Federal Court, and this Judge dismissed the case based on the evidence presented to him.

Additionally, this was a civil rights case, and not a records case.

Until there is substantial appellate or supreme court decisions on the issue of board member access to all records of a public body, or until the Legislature changes FOIA and/or the Local Records Act, we will continue to see this type of behavior (denying access to records) directed against political minority board members.

JasperSchoolDistrictFederalCaseOrder

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3 replies »

  1. The judge also refused to grant sanctions that you had reported on earlier. Since you posted an article about the sanctions, I figured you would report on that as well. I also believe the judge said that the board had a right to protect the dissemination of student records to community members who have no business seeing them. Not surprisingly, you didn’t mention this. That is why the board chose to do what they did in the first place, but it would appear that side of the story was never reported on or shared with readers. News journalism is one thing, opinion pieces are another. I hope people understand that your journalism consists of opinion pieces, supported by selected facts, not all the facts. People who understood the facts of this case (that a board member chose to share confidential student records to individuals who had no business looking at them, for what purpose I’ll never know) were not shocked by the outcome. I predicted in a comment on th first article you posted that the board would successfully defend themselves and that’s Jed wouldn’t be re-elected. I was correct.

    I was one of the people that lobbied hard for Jed in 2015. I thought he cared. He appeared to mainly care about hurting one particular family’s children, and to me that made him a poor choice for re-election. The community spoke.

    My sincere hope is that you all take stock of this outcome and open your mind to all facts in the future.

    • The denial of the Sanctions was because it was brought against the wrong party, according to attached document. The Board had no right to keep records from an elected board member, I believe the Judge was wrong on that point, but since he made the statement on the premise of a federal civil rights issue, and not on the premise of an access to records complaint (which would have been in a state court), he can have that opinion and run with it. If we didn’t want people to read the Court record, we wouldn’t have included it in the article.

    • I’m curious as to what other news agency reported on this matter and actually provided the court records? While you imply there were things missing in the reporting, one can only wonder how you come to that conclusion when the actual record was provided for everyone to read for themselves?

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