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Question Submitted by: The Honorable Bill Lancaster, Oklahoma House of Representatives
1982 OK AG 209
Oklahoma Attorney General
Cite as: 1982 OK AG 209, __ __
¶0 The Attorney General has considered your request for an opinion wherein you asked, in essence, the following questions:
1. Is it a violation of the Open Meeting Act for the local boards of education to proceed by executive session to hear parental grievances against a school teacher or teachers?
2. Is it a violation of the Open Meeting Act for a local board of education to proceed by executive session to hear parental complaints regarding a student, for purposes other than that of suspension or expulsion?
“No public body shall hold executive sessions unless otherwise specifically provided for herein.
“Executive sessions of public bodies will be permitted only for the purpose of discussing the employment, hiring, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining or resignation of any individual salaried public officer or employee; or by district boards of education for the purpose of hearing evidence and discussing the expulsion or suspension of a student when requested by the student involved or his parent, attorney or legal guardian and for the purpose of discussing negotiations concerning employees and representatives of employee groups. Provided, however, that any vote or action thereon must be taken in public meeting with the vote of each member publicly cast and recorded.
“No executive session by a public body shall occur except on a vote by a majority of a quorum of the members present.” (Emphasis added).
¶2 This section provides only three purposes for which executive sessions are allowed:
1. To discuss the enumerated personnel and disciplinary matters pertaining to individual salaried employees,
2. To hear evidence and discuss expulsion or suspension of a student, or
3. To discuss employee negotiations.
(One other exception from open public meetings has been announced in Berry v. Board of Governors of the Registered Dentists of Oklahoma, Okl., 611 P.2d 628 (1980) and Oklahoma Ass’n of Municipal Attorneys v. State, Okl.,577 P.2d 1310 (1978), concerning executive sessions under certain circumstances between agencies and their attorneys.)
¶3 Your questions concern the holding of executive sessions for the purpose of hearing certain complaints and grievances. However, as the only exceptions to open public meetings are those previously mentioned, the plain language of 25 O.S. 301 et seq. (1981), cannot be read to include the factual situations raised by your questions.
¶4 The Court in Trask v. Johnson, Okl., 452 P.2d 575 (1969), citing Seventeen Hundred Peoria, Inc. v. City of Tulsa et al., Okl., 422 P.2d 840 (1966), stated:
“The rule of construction of statutes and ordinances, to which all other rules are subordinate, is to ascertain the intention of the enacting body, and this should ordinarily be done by consideration of the language of the statute or ordinance, and the courts should not read into a statute exceptions not made therein.” (Emphasis added).
¶5 Thus, local school boards may not hold executive sessions to hear parental complaints or grievances, except where the board is considering expulsion or suspension of a student. Both of your questions are therefore answered affirmatively. It is a violation of the Open Meeting Act to hold executive sessions to hear parental complaints or grievances for any purposes other than those provided for under 25 O.S. 307 (1981).
¶6 It is, therefore, the official opinion of the Attorney General that local school boards are not authorized under the provisions of the Open Meeting Act, 25 O.S. 301 et seq. (1981), to hold any executive sessions to hear parental complaints or grievances, except where the board is considering the expulsion or suspension of a student as provided at 25 O.S. 307(1981).
JAN ERIC CARTWRIGHT
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF OKLAHOMA
GUY L. HURST
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL