Lakota settles lawsuit with resident who was not allowed to speak at board meeting

The Lakota Local School District’s school board voted unanimously this week to approve a settlement of a lawsuit from a resident who was denied the opportunity to speak during a board meeting in September regarding the allegations against Superintendent Matt Miller.

According to the settlement’s details, the resident will be paid $637 by Lakota and the district also agreed to cover the plaintiff’s legal fees of $15,000 to be paid to the law firm handling the lawsuit.

In reaction to the settlement, the board has decided to prohibit both negative school employee comments and positive comments as a means to adhere to a public comment policy that will allow it to avoid further litigation, said some members.

The praising of teachers, school building administrators and other school employees by members of the public are often a regular focus of public members commenting during many board meetings, in Lakota and in other districts, as school parents and residents periodically express their appreciation of those workers’ efforts.

Now, such comments will not be allowed by public speakers during board meetings under the new board policy and negative comments about Lakota employees will also be prohibited, said School Board President Lynda O’Connor.

Board member Darbi Boddy objected to the new policy, but O’Connor said while “this (policy) will be difficult to enforce … this is the will of the (majority of the) board.”

Member Julie Shaffer said, “if you take the compliments (of school employees) then you have to take the complaints, so that’s why we are not doing either.”

O’Connor said the board will revisit the new public comment policy in six months to review its impact.

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