Owasso school board to reconsider defiance of ‘Lindsey’s Law’

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 15-Dec-2010

Writing for Neighbor Newspapers, including the Broken Arrow Ledger, Danielle Parker and Nour Habib report the Owasso Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday (December 16) at 5 p.m.

According to a story update: “The agenda calls the board to discuss and vote on whether to rescind the board’s resolution on House Bill 3393. The meeting will be held at the Dale C. Johnson Education Service Center, 1501 North Ash, in Owasso. There is no time slotted for public comment on the agenda posted.”

In a previous story, they reported that Owasso attorney Gordon Cummings is seeking a Writ of Ouster for members of the local board of education who have defied implementation of House Bill 3393, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships Program Act, also known as Lindsey’s Law.

In an October 26 letter to Attorney General Drew Edmondson, Cummings characterized as “willful misconduct” the decision to impede implementation of the law benefiting special needs children.

In that letter, Cummings said, “Removal from office and appointment of new board members is the best solution since it punishes lawbreakers, not innocent students.” Cumming continued, “They are setting themselves up as a mini-supreme court. When you feel a law is unconstitutional, you challenge it in court or go the legislature. But until the law is overturned, it should be followed.”

Cummings argued, “The fair way to resolve this is between equal government forces in court, not the poor parents against a board with so many resources.” According to the Ledger, Cummings said he has no financial interest in the case, but acted as a concerned citizen: “It has been nearly 60 days, and no one has done anything, because no one knows what to do. The law must be obeyed.”

A writ can proceed from local petitioning or action by the attorney general, according to Cummings’ interpretation of a Supreme Court case from 1927. He said: “This is not a crime, but misconduct. No one wants to go to jail in this case, but by intentionally voting to disobey the law, they should be removed from their positions. An elected official has refused to do what his/her duty is, and that is, obey the law. It’s pretty clear cut.”

Defiance of the law has drawn massive criticism from a bipartisan group of public officials.

The controversial law firm of Rosenstein Fist Ringold has advised districts not to implement the law, even though the measure gained bipartisan legislative support and was vetted before enactment by Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett and Governor Brad Henry.

(In related news, the Ledger has scrutinized increased legal fees paid to the firm by several Tulsa-area school districts.)

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett told CapitolBeatOK in October she believed school board member who defied implementation of the law had placed themselves “in violation of their oaths of office.” Garrett, a Democrat, did not seek reelection this year and is leaving office after 20 years of service.

Incoming Speaker of the House Kris Steele of Shawnee, a Republican, and state Rep. Jabar Shumate, a Democrat, have decried efforts to impede the law’s implementation.

The measure passed with a bipartisan effort led by state Rep. Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City and state Sen. Patrick Anderson of Enid, both Republicans, with co-sponsorship from Shumate and state Rep. Anastasia Pittman, an Oklahoma City Democrat.

The measure was signed into law early this summer by Governor Brad Henry