Locker-search talk will be private
Legal issues involved prompt a BOE panel to close its meeting
A Board of Education committee will meet behind closed doors Monday to discuss the legality of proposed rule changes that would allow searches of students' lockers.
Other changes to the student misconduct code would add a definition for cyberbullying, forgery and hazing and prohibit gadgets like laser pen pointers, iPods and DVD players, as well as gang paraphernalia, on school grounds.
Mary Cochran, chairwoman of the board's Committee on Special Programs, said the meeting is being held in executive session so the board can get a briefing from the Attorney General's Office on the legal and privacy issues surrounding the proposed changes.
She said the board will not take public testimony at Monday's meeting.
Cochran said there will be a public meeting on July 9 and the meeting next week is being held in private on the advice of the attorney general.
Les Kondo, director of the state Office of Information Practices, said the issue of boards hearing from their attorneys behind closed doors on public policy matters is "a very gray area."
The Legislature specifically gave boards the authority to consult with attorneys behind closed doors, Kondo said. Some states do not give public boards that option and legal advice must be heard in open meetings.
"If the AG is saying a (proposed change) is unconstitutional and they go ahead and do it, they could expose the BOE and the state to a lawsuit," Kondo said.
On the other hand, Kondo said, "How can the public know or scrutinize the board's decision if they don't know what the AG told them?"
The board does have the option of hearing from the attorney general in open session. The state Sunshine Law does not mandate that boards go into executive session to hear from the attorney general.
The board and the Attorney General's Office have been extraordinarily secretive about the proposed rule changes.
During the committee's last meeting on June 18, copies of the draft proposal were taken away from reporters and the board abruptly voted to go into executive session after Deputy Attorney General Holly Shikada entered the room and became concerned that members were having an open discussion about the revisions.
The copies of the proposed changes were later returned to reporters after board members determined it was public.
Star-Bulletin reporter Alex DaSilva contributed to this story.