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How to Fight Corrupt School Boards with FOIA and Lawsuits—and WIN

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The stories of school boards retaliating against parents who want a say in school policies are everywhere. From arresting parents who protest against mask mandates to banning parents who speak out against failed bullying policies to walking out during parent comments on pedophilia in the school library, retaliation by government officials is in the air.

 

I have years of experience in this area that might come in handy for those of you out there suffering under these little dictatorships. Several years ago, I was in the fight of my life against a corrupt library board that wanted to keep serving porn addicts their drug of choice in a public building full of children without any accountability. My colleague Kevin DuJan and I took them on in both the courtroom of public opinion and actual courtrooms and we won. It took three solid years of suffering a lot of retaliation, including police intimidation and defamation, for the madness to end, but end it did with a $55,000 judgment in our favor and a change in policy that kept the sickos out of the library.

How did we do this? Luckily, we wrote a book detailing every step we took. “Shut Up! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment” is more relevant than ever as school boards have declared war on parents. This book is the most comprehensive how-to on the subject of the Freedom of Information Act and how to take down a bad elected board that exists. If you are fighting your school board on any policy, you need this book.

DuJan, a former Democrat and Hillary Clinton campaigner, was instrumental in showing me how to use Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” against the left in coordination with FOIA to destroy an overconfident and stupid set of people who were determined to shut us up, ignore taxpayers, and continue breaking the law. The most important Alinsky rule was making the board live up to its own rules. It begins by digging around in the open meetings act and FOIA laws of your state and then catching them violating the law. It’s incredibly easy to do. DuJan stumbled into something called “FOIA fest” in Chicago where he learned amazing things that helped us to defeat the Orland Park Library Board. From Chapter 31:

One of the best things about the updated FOIA statute and the Open Meetings Act was the provision for recovery of attorneys’ fees against a public body that broke the law (and a $2500 penalty per violation for FOIA law-breaking). This made it a lot more feasible to sue a public body in court over abuse since the government would have unlimited funds to divert to litigation (but would now be on the hook for plaintiffs’ legal fees in those fights, shifting the cost burden from the plaintiffs and back onto the public bodies where it belonged). The worst part of Illinois’ laws was the fact that no elected official would ever be held personally liable for anything terrible they did to the public; all public bodies wrote immunity mechanisms into their governing policies that promised to cover the trustees when they broke the OMA and FOIA statutes and pay all of their legal costs when sued over such law-breaking. That meant the only personal consequence an atrocious board member would ever feel would be (at most) personal embarrassment when publicly shamed for his or her wrongdoing.

Whatever the laws are in your state, you need to learn them and then hold the boards to them. One of the things DuJan and I found was that the board would consistently violate the Open Meetings Act (OMA) by intimidating members of the public over stupid things like telling us we couldn’t record a public meeting (one time they told us we couldn’t use their electricity!) or making us state our addresses on the public record. That’s not legal! I have watched board meeting after board meeting lately where they are doing these things and no one calls them on it. It’s a slam-dunk win to sue over blatant OMA violations.

In Chapter 34, I write about the importance of being the “supervisors” of our local governments.

In my opinion, the Tea Party would be far better off having their get-togethers each month at a different public meeting for a random government board. We are their supervisors. We need to start supervising. I guarantee you 90% of these local boards are breaking the law in some way (mostly out of ignorance but some most certainly with malice). The Tea Party should focus on busting all these boards on the local level and removing bad board members and getting rid of bad municipal law firms that enable all the law-breaking. Change in this country must come from the bottom up: Washington D.C. is a lost cause, but your local village boards are not. The Edgar County Watchdogs (who publish at IllinoisLeaks.com, led by John Kraft and Kirk Allen, are perfect examples of effective supervisors for local government. Just those two guys (who spend all their free time going to public meetings around the state) have forced countless resignations (175 at last count), uncovered fraud, won lawsuits, and even arrested an entire board using citizen’s arrest powers in Clark County, Illinois. Those board members had refused to allow public comment (censored!) at public meetings (exactly like the OPPL-BoT had done, but we had no idea at the time they could be hauled out in handcuffs for it).

Everywhere they go, instead of being hailed as heroes of the People, Kraft and Allen are vilified and called “outsiders” and “busybodies.” It’s a stunning indictment of the citizens of this state that they aren’t thanking Kraft and Allen for saving them tax money and rooting out bad actors in elected office. Instead, the Watchdogs are met with derision and vitriol from people who want to protect their turf (even if their elected officials are stealing from them). “They may be crooks, and they might be stealing, but they are our crooks and you are an outsider so we hate you rotten interlopers!” is the general sentiment in the various fiefdoms of Illinois.

Be prepared to face the same derision when you fight these people but remember that it’s worth it. When you win, as we did, all of a sudden the narrative changes, and people begin to see the value in what was done. The book has so much information on how to do this and how to hold your elected officials accountable that it cannot be put into one column. Buy the book and share it with your fellow parents who want change on your school boards and learn how to really fight back. It requires time, resources, dedication, and creativity but it is possible, and when they have to write you a big, fat check, they start to understand who the boss really is.