Right to Legal Advice Endangered by Policy Proposal

A policy change under consideration by the School Board would affect requests by Board members for a legal opinion from the School Board Legal Counsel.  As the policy currently stands, any Board member seeking such a legal opinion makes the request to the Chairman, who must forward the request to Legal Counsel.  The proposed change, however, would require a majority vote of the Board in order to obtain the legal opinion.

This change must be opposed with all vigor.

Among its many duties, the School Board is charged with ensuring that the operations of the school district are in full compliance with federal, state, and local laws.  In its deliberations and decisions, the members must therefore have unfettered access to legal advice.  Board members themselves are not necessarily experts in the law; that expertise is provided by the School Board Legal Counsel.  Consistent with this vital need, the policy as currently written properly compels the Chairman to forward requests for advice to the appropriate professional attorneys.

The proposed change, however, taints the process of obtaining this advice; it alters what should be a purely legal request into a political one.  Instead of obtaining the legal opinion that a Board member needs, she or he might be stonewalled or denied outright by political opponents.  This situation puts at risk the rights of the minority, and places in grave jeopardy the ability of the Board to discharge its responsibilities.

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