To settle a federal lawsuit, the Coeur d’Alene School Board has agreed to apologize to a parent who was locked out of a school board meeting in 2003.
The board has also agreed to amend its official minutes to reflect that Randy Tetzner was “inadvertently locked” out of a school board meeting and to pay $250 in court fees.
Tetzner said Friday that he filed the case because he felt his civil rights were violated when he couldn’t get into the board meeting to argue on behalf of autistic students, including his own son.
“I have not asked them to admit to wrongdoing, just to say they’re sorry and to have the record corrected,” Tetzner said. He agreed to dismiss the case if the district accepted those conditions and also reimbursed the court for the $250 filing fee.
According to the district’s letter of apology, both the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office and an internal investigation by the school district found that the doors weren’t intentionally locked.
“The board has always made a good faith effort to make itself accessible to the public, and we have carefully abided by all open meeting laws and executive session laws,” Superintendent Harry Amend said Friday afternoon.
Tetzner said the school board knew he was coming to the meeting. He had called the district office earlier in the day and said he was planning to attend.
He said that the person answering the phone told him that the doors to the building would be locked at 5 p.m. Tetzner said he asked that person not to lock the door.
That evening, Tetzner said he arrived at the district office and discovered the door to the building was locked. After knocking for some time, he said the district’s clerk answered the door and let him into the meeting. By the time he got into the boardroom, the meeting was over.
The minutes of the Aug. 18, 2003, board meeting read: “A patron entered the meeting and called for a point of order. The Chair ruled that the meeting would be adjourned.”
Now the minutes have been amended to say that the door to the building was “inadvertently locked” and “a patron was inadvertently foreclosed from the possibility of attending the open public meeting.”
“This was an unfortunate situation that happened,” Amend said. “We’re glad that it’s resolved.”
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