Lowellville parents appeal magistrate’s decision in lawsuit against school district

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The Magistrate sided with the parents, saying the district did violate the state's open meetings law, but said the district does not have to stop holding remote classes

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LOWELLVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – Lowellville parents who sued the school district, alleging a violation of Ohio’s open meetings law, are appealing a magistrate’s ruling in the suit.

Chris and Gina Crilley spoke out against the board’s decision to move students to solely remote learning for the first nine weeks. They said the decision was made without community input, as the community wasn’t properly notified about a special board meeting when the decision was made.

Mahoning County Magistrate Tim Welsh ruled on September 21 that the Lowellville School Board did break the open meetings law, but said it does not have to stop holding remote classes. According to the ruling, the superintendent had been “vested” by the board to make decisions about a remote learning plan without its approval.

As part of his ruling, Magistrate Welsh ordered that the board must adopt a meeting notification policy. He also awarded the Crilleys $500 but denied a request for their legal fees to be paid.

The Crilleys’ appeal of the ruling states that the superintendent should not have sole authority to make the decision about remote learning because, during a prior meeting on July 27, the Board of Education adopted a reopening plan by resolution. Nothing in that resolution or approved minutes indicates that the superintendent was given the authority to make such decisions, the appeal states.

The Crilleys say the BOE also adopted “Reopening Guidelines,” which contains verbiage that the approved reopening plan may change based on input from a multitude of persons.

They allege that the superintendent’s plan is invalid because it was introduced during the illegally-held meeting on August 10.

The Crilleys are requesting that the superintendent’s reopening plan be voided and any new plans must be first presented to the community. They’re also requesting an award of attorney fees, as the Magistrate ruled in their favor in regard to a violation of open meetings law.

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