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Collier County textbook meetings violated Florida’s Sunshine Law, court rules

A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal said the textbook committees are governed by the Sunshine Law.
The Collier County School Board violated the state’s Sunshine Law because the public was shut out of meetings of committees that evaluated and ranked textbooks.
The Collier County School Board violated the state’s Sunshine Law because the public was shut out of meetings of committees that evaluated and ranked textbooks. [ Shutterstock ]
Published Sep. 10

The Collier County School Board violated the state’s Sunshine Law because the public was shut out of meetings of committees that evaluated and ranked textbooks, an appeals court said Friday.

The nonprofit Florida Citizens Alliance and three individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in 2017 alleging violations of the law that requires open government meetings. A circuit judge dismissed the case, but a three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal said the textbook committees are governed by the Sunshine Law.

Under a school board policy, the district superintendent was required to establish committees that evaluated textbooks and submitted reports that the board used in approving instructional materials. Also, the school board could not “select a textbook on its own if it disagrees with a textbook committee’s evaluation,” the 16-page ruling said. “Therefore, we conclude that the textbook committees have been delegated decision-making authority, that the Sunshine Law applies to meetings of the textbook committees, and that those meetings must be open to the public with reasonable notice provided,” said the ruling, written by Judge Morris Silberman and joined by Judges Darryl Casanueva and Andrea Teves Smith.

The ruling sent the case back to circuit court.

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