The ongoing lawsuit filed by several Denver news organizations against Denver Public Schools reveals a deepening transparency crisis, highlighting serious concerns about accountability and governance within the district.
The court’s recent denial of DPS’s request to withhold the recording of the Board of Education’s closed-door meeting March 23 underscores the urgent need to address the district’s lack of transparency. This case not only exposes a violation of state law but also raises questions about the district’s commitment to open and responsible decision-making. The public — and therefore the news media — has a right to demand greater transparency and accountability from DPS, as these issues directly impact the education and safety of our students.
The court’s ruling confirmed that DPS violated state law by conducting an executive session following the tragic incident at East High School on March 22. By making policy decisions behind closed doors and failing to declare the meeting properly, the board denied the public the opportunity to participate in critical discussions affecting the community. This violation not only erodes public trust but also sets a concerning precedent that could hinder open dialogue on future decisions. The district’s disregard for the law raises serious questions about its commitment to upholding ethical standards and ensuring transparency.
The media coalition’s argument for timely access to the meeting recording holds significant merit. The public and media have a statutory right to receive information from government bodies in a timely manner, especially when the topic is newsworthy and public debate is ongoing. Delaying the release of the recording throughout the lengthy appeals process could silence important discussions and hinder the public’s ability to engage with the matter at hand. Transparency is crucial, particularly in cases involving decisions impacting student safety and education policies. The district’s attempts to prolong the process only exacerbate the lack of accountability and transparency that already plagues DPS.
The decision by the DPS Board of Education to hold a closed-door executive session following the tragedy at East High School is indicative of a broader transparency problem within the district. Closed-door sessions are meant to protect certain types of sensitive information and ensure the privacy of individuals in limited circumstances. However, in this case, the session extended beyond the law’s valid reasons for retreating behind closed doors: addressing security arrangements and investigations related to the incident.
The lack of clarity surrounding the executive session raises red flags about the board’s transparency and decision-making process. The public has the right to understand the factors and discussions that influenced the board’s choice to bring back school resource officers, especially given the potential impact on student safety and the educational environment. By holding critical discussions behind closed doors, the DPS Board of Education undermines the principles of open governance and public accountability.
The transparency crisis within DPS must serve as a catalyst for change. The district must embrace a culture of openness and accountability to restore public trust. Transparency requires the district to actively engage with the community, seek public input, and make informed decisions in the best interest of students and families. By ensuring that decision-making processes are transparent, the district can rebuild public confidence and demonstrate a commitment to responsible governance.
The lawsuit against DPS exposes a critical transparency crisis that demands immediate attention. The district’s violation of state law, its attempts to withhold information, and its lack of accountability are deeply concerning. Denver Public Schools must take proactive measures to restore transparency and rebuild public trust.
The education and safety of students depend on a district that is transparent, accountable, and committed to effective governance. It is time for DPS to prioritize the interests of the community and ensure that decisions are made with the utmost integrity and transparency. Only through these efforts can we create an education system that truly serves the needs of our students.
Paul Ballenger, of Denver, is an at-large candidate for Denver Public Schools Board of Education.
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