Kan. school board involved in plagiarism case sued for open-meetings violations

KANSAS — Seven school board members are facing a civillawsuit alleging five separate violations of the Kansas open-meetingslaw after the Piper Unified School District held a closed meetinglast December.

The board members met during a recess to discuss the meaningof plagiarism after Christine Pelton, a biology teacher at PiperHigh School, gave 28 students zeros for plagiarizing a botanyproject by using material from the Internet.

The board overruled her decision on the grades, prompting Pelton’sresignation.

Under Kansas law, all boards "supportedin whole or in part by public funds shall be open to the publicand no binding action by such bodies shall be by secret ballot."

"We’re alleging five separate violations of the open-meetingslaw as far as the reasons for going into executive session andthe fact that they did not vote after they came out of executivesession," Wyandotte County Assistant District Attorney ChrisSchneider said.

The petition states there was no justification given for closingthe meeting. It also alleges that the topic of discussion deviatedfrom what was included in the agenda and that an order was issuedwithout any public action.

If found in violation of the act, board members could face a civilfine of up to $500 for each violation, Schneider said, for a totalof $2,500 per board member.