- Associated Press - Monday, May 26, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa high school principal whose district wants him fired has requested that school board members hold their talks about his future in public, saying he has nothing to hide.

Red Oak High School Principal Jedd Sherman says the board is trying to fire him in retaliation for his reporting two cases of student bullying, the Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/1td92W7 ) reported. Sherman said school officials were also unhappy about his request that a bathroom be remodeled to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

School board members have declined to discuss why they want to fire Sherman, and have refused to conduct their discussions about his job in public. Termination proceedings have been ongoing for months.

The standoff at the southwest Iowa school district is a test of Iowa’s open-meetings law and could lead to personal fines of up to $1,500 for each violation against each member of the Red Oak School Board. It could also determine how culpable elected officials are when they rely on advice from an attorney, even after they’ve been informed that the advice is inaccurate or contrary to state law.

“To what extent can you hide behind the advice that you get from your attorney?” said Margaret Johnson, the deputy director of the Iowa Public Information Board.

Iowa’s open-meetings law says a government body can hold professional competency discussions in private if requested by the affected employee. Sherman has specifically requested the discussions be made public, saying he wants to set an example for students about the importance of doing what’s right.

School officials say state law allows them to discuss the matter privately because it involves personnel information. The Iowa Public Information Board - appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad to enforce Iowa’s open-meetings law - issued an advisory opinion Feb. 20 that the meetings in Sherman’s case be made public. The information board said the law can’t be circumvented “under the guise of a confidential record review.”

The school board has discussed Sherman’s case at least twice in private since the Feb. 20 opinion, prompting Sherman and a parent, Don Rogerson, to complain to the information board that the open-meetings law had been violated.

Sherman has been the school’s principal for six years.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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