U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Media outlets sue Denver Public Schools for records from closed meeting

Incident Details

March 23, 2023

Seven news outlets in Denver, Colorado,have taken the city’s public school district to court after the Board of Education held a closed-door session on March 23, 2023.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed the lawsuit on April 28 on behalf of seven local news outlets: Chalkbeat Colorado, Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics, The Denver Gazette, The Denver Post, KDVR-TV and KUSA-TV.

According to the suit, the Denver Public Schools Board held a closed, five-hour session on March 23 to discuss security policies following a shooting of two administrators at East High School the day before. Following the meeting, board members unanimously voted to redeploy armed officers in every district high school for the remainder of the year, going against the district’s written policy.

“No public discussion, whatsoever, preceded the Board’s historic about-face concerning its policy of preventing armed ‘School Resource Officers’ inside the District’s high schools. None,” the lawsuit said. “It is clear and irrefutable that the Board had already decided, behind closed doors, to adopt the position or resolution in the Memorandum that they then unanimously voted to approve in public without discussion — a mere ‘rubber stamping’ of their earlier decision.”

Between March 23 and 30, each of the media outlets party to the lawsuit filed requests under Colorado’s Open Records Act and Open Meetings Law seeking the meeting’s minutes and the recording of the session. Each of the requests was denied on the basis that the records are not subject to the open government laws.

The lawsuit requests that the court direct the school district to release the recording from the meeting in its entirety, or — if sections are exempt from disclosure — that those sections be redacted and the remainder released.

A hearing on the case is scheduled for June 1.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]