State Politics

Idaho charter school superintendent files $500,000 defamation claim against state

The Idaho Capitol building.
The Idaho Capitol building. Idaho Statesman file

The superintendent of a Jerome charter school has filed a $500,000 tort claim against the state.

Heritage Academy’s Christine Ivie is pursuing legal action against the state’s Public Charter School Commission for “defamation, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy,” according to a tort claim filed Sept. 23 with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office.

A tort claim is a legally required precursor to a lawsuit. The state has 90 days to respond. If the state denies or does not respond to the claim, Ivie may file a lawsuit.

The claim stems from an April 11, 2019, Public Charter School Commission meeting held in Boise. During its regular meeting, the commission held an executive session — a closed meeting — that was inadvertently recorded, and then that recording was released through a public records request.

In the recording, commission members “repeatedly and outrageously insulted Dr. Ivie, Heritage Academy and the children of Jerome who attend Heritage Academy,” states her tort claim.

Because the executive session’s recording was released to the public, “many of the untrue statements were repeated numerous times in news articles locally and nationally.”

Ivie is seeking the maximum amount allowed under state law for such a claim: $500,000.

Typically, details from executive sessions are not publicly released. Additionally, boards cannot take any action and are limited in what can be discussed during an executive session, which must be identified on an agenda.

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office investigated the April 11 executive session and found that the commission violated the state’s open meeting laws by not identifying the executive session on its agenda and by discussing topics outside the stated purpose of the executive session.

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Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.