On April 12, the Assistant Attorney General (“AAG”) at the Public Access Bureau issued a letter finding that a School District did not violate the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”) by holding a closed session to discuss a board member’s use of social media. Franczek Radelet partner Brian Crowley represented the District in the matter.
The case centered around whether the School District correctly used the “self-evaluation” exception in section 2(c)(16) of the OMA to hold a closed meeting with members of the Illinois Association of School Boards (“IASB”) in order to discuss board member interrelationships, including the use of social media. The “self-evaluation” exception permits a public body to enter closed session to discuss “self-evaluation, practices and procedures or professional ethics, when meeting with a representative of a statewide association of which the public body is a member.” The Claimant, a School Board member, alleged that the Board’s use of the “self-evaluation” exception was improper. Namely, the Board Member argued that portions of the Board’s closed session did not fall within the scope of the exception as the discussion, she alleged, pertained to policy and not self-evaluation.
After reviewing the transcript of the closed session, the AAG found that the closed session did not violate the “self-evaluation” exception. The AAG did agree with the Claimant that, at times, the Board discussed internal interactions. However, she found that those comments were made “in the context of the Board discussing its practices and procedures and how to improve certain practices.” Finally, the AAG noted that the discussion was facilitated by representatives of the IASB and, as such, was conducted in compliance with the requirements of the exception.
This decision provides beneficial guidance to school districts and other public bodies regarding the use of the “self-evaluation” exception of the OMA and how disputes under this exception will be analyzed. School boards who use this exception should be sure to discuss only those topics which the exception expressly permits and to include a member of a statewide association to facilitate any such conversation. School districts are encouraged to contact their attorneys with any questions related to the “self-evaluation” exception or this Attorney General decision.