Texts between school board members raise open meeting concerns

In the 21st century, school board business can take place in several ways: in in-person meetings, virtual meetings and electronic communications. Recently, a Dallas area school board president got into trouble though by possibly violating Texas open meeting rules through texts.

Texting about school board business

Carroll Independent School District Board President Michelle Moore sent a series of texts to five other board members about the district’s controversial Cultural Competence Action Plan (CCAP) in early August. Several of the texts became group conversations after Moore sent them.

The texts were later acquired after an open meeting request. The texts discussed how some board members included in the group texts planned to vote on the CCAP on Aug. 3.

New 2019 amendments to the Texas Attorney General’s Open Meetings Act Handbook specifically address how a quorum of those who make up a governmental body can’t discuss public business in a series of communications. For the Carroll Independent School District Board, a quorum is four board members.

Because the board addressed the Cultural Competence Action Plan (CCAP) in its Aug. 3 meeting, board members shouldn’t have discussed the plan outside that meeting.

More about Texas open meeting laws

The Texas Opening Meeting Act aims to have government entities, including city councils, county boards, water advisory boards and school boards, conduct their public business in public. Since taxpayers fund local school districts, the Texas Opening Meeting Act allows them to know how the district spends that money.

However, sometimes, governmental bodies have closed sessions, where officials meet with their attorney about pending litigation or a settlement. Or they need to discuss personnel matters or certain contract negotiations. Other times in which boards can have closed meetings are detailed in the Texas Open Meeting Act.

The core reason behind the Texas Open Meeting Act is to allow citizens to stay informed about what decisions their governmental bodies are making, allowing them to evaluate if they should vote again for those elected to those positions.