MISHAWAKA, Ind. — A parent in the Penn Harris Madison School Corporation filed an official complaint with the State of Indiana concerning the school district breaking Indiana Open Door laws. This comes after the school board president, Chris Riley, refused to allow multiple parents to speak before action was taken on an agenda item concerning the makeup of board leadership earlier this month.
“I signed up to speak on agenda item 5.01. This item was then voted on prior to me being allowed to speak.” The parent wrote in their official complaint to Indiana’s Public Access Counselor.
According to IC 5-14-1.5-3, “the taking of oral public comment on a topic must occur before the governing body takes final action on the topic. The governing body may set a limit on the total amount of time for receiving oral public comment on a topic.”
In his complaint, the parent also points out that Chris Riley has not only been the president of the school board for years, he is also an attorney and is well aware of Indiana law. The parent also requests Riley be removed from his leadership position for the violation. Subscribers can read the entire complaint below.
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The incident happened on January 9th, during the first board meeting of the year. Multiple parents had signed up to speak and criticize Riley’s leadership prior to the vote. However, in a move to silence opposition, Riley went against state law and held the votes without first allowing any public comment. You can see video of the meeting here.
“I was also going to speak on the recommendation for a board president, but since we got bypassed… I would have recommended Jim Garrett.” One parent stated after the vote had already taken place.
“So, my speech was meant to be read before the vote.” Another parent said. “But, that didn’t happen. You’re not supposed to screw these things up on the first day.”
In all, there were 4 parents who were signed up to speak regarding the leadership vote. All of them are well known by Riley to be critical of him. None of them were allowed to speak prior to the agenda item.
PHM has a history of breaking open door laws. In March of 2022, RNM published a story regarding a scathing report by the State of Indiana, condemning the Penn Harris Madison School Corporation for blatantly breaking public records laws after a formal complaint from a parent and a subsequent investigation by Indiana’s Public Access Counselor (PAC), who oversees the state’s public records laws.
In a 9 page report by the PAC, the state lays out the complaint, Indiana’s laws and the violations committed by PHM Schools. You can read all about that case here.
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