State Supreme Court Decision on Open Meetings Impacts School Committees

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a committee set up by administrators in the Appleton Area School District to assess a book list used in a high school communications arts course should have been subject to the State’s open meetings law.  The decision overturned earlier court rulings that found that the committee was not a governmental body subject to public notice and other requirements.

The Court’s decision held that since the committee was formed and its membership was appointed using , in material respects, committee procedures that had been authorized by the school board for the purpose of reviewing and making recommendations on the district’s curriculum and instructional materials, it was a governmental body subject to the open meetings law:

“Where a governmental entity adopts a rule authorizing the formation of committees and conferring on them the power to take collective action, such committees are “created by . . . rule” under § 19.82(1) and the open meetings law applies to them. Here, the Board’s Rule 361 provided that the review of educational materials should be done according to the Board-approved Assessment, Curriculum, & Instruction Handbook (the “Handbook”). The Handbook, in turn, authorized the formation of committees with a defined membership and the power to review educational materials and make formal recommendations for Board approval. Because CAMRC was formed as one of these committees, pursuant to authority delegated to it  by the Board by means of Rule 361 and the Handbook, it was “created by . . . rule” and therefore was a “governmental body” under § 19.82(1).”

Note: The WASB filed an amicus curiae brief along with other local government and school administrator groups in support of the school district’s position.

Read More: See the full decision