Case Number: 2023CV031265
Court: Denver County District Court
Clients: The Denver Post, States Newsroom (Colorado Newsline), Nexstar Media Group, KUSA 9News TEGNA, The Denver Gazette and Colorado Politics, Chalkbeat Colorado
Lawsuit Filed: April 28, 2023
Background: On March 23, 2023, the Board of Education of the Denver Public Schools met in a closed executive session to discuss what it said were “specialized details of security arrangements or investigations as a result of” a shooting that occurred at East High School. As news outlets later reported, board members unanimously decided during the closed meeting to re-deploy armed police officers in every high school in the school district for the remainder of the school year, thereby formally suspending its former written district policy.
Several Colorado news organizations later submitted requests under the state’s Open Records Act and Open Meetings Law seeking the meeting minutes and recording of the closed executive session. The school district denied each of the requests, claiming that the records of the executive session “are not subject to disclosure pursuant to the Colorado Open Meetings [Law] … or the Colorado Open Records Act.”
On behalf of the news outlets, Rachael Johnson, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative Attorney for Colorado, and Steven Zansberg, a First Amendment attorney and president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, filed this lawsuit against the school district asking the court to enter an order directing school officials to release the entirety of the closed meeting recording because it was an unlawfully closed public meeting.
Quote: “No public discussion, whatsoever, preceded the Board’s historic about-face concerning its policy of preventing armed ‘School Resource Officers’ inside the District’s high schools. None,” the lawsuit states. “It is clear and irrefutable that the Board had already decided, behind closed doors, to adopt the position or resolution in the Memorandum that they then unanimously voted to approve in public without discussion — a mere ‘rubber stamping’ of their earlier decision.”
Co-Counsel: Steven Zansberg
Updates: On June 23, 2023, the Denver County District Court ordered the Denver Public Schools to make the entirety of the March 23 executive session recording available for public inspection. On July 21, 2023, the board of the Denver Public Schools voted to release the recording. Soon after, the district released a redacted version of the recording.
2023-06-23: Order for production