Arizona Education board sues Diane Douglas

Posted at 3:59 PM, Sep 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-30 18:59:41-04

The Arizona Board of Education has followed through on its promise to sue to force Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas to give remote computer access to board investigators and to redirect web traffic to the board's new website.

The lawsuit announced Wednesday comes two weeks after the board authorized its attorneys to sue the state's top school official for failing to comply with board policies.

The board and Douglas have been at odds since she tried to fire the board's executive staff in February. Ongoing friction between Douglas and the board that sets state school policy led the board to move its staff out of Douglas' offices.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Douglas is breaking the law by failing to execute board policies and seeks an order requiring her to comply.

"The Superintendent may not use her practical control over (Arizona Department of Education) resources to turn her single board vote into a veto of board policies she dislikes," board attorney Mary O'Grady wrote in the lawsuit.

The board has been trying to get remote computer access to teacher files Douglas controls since it moved out of her offices in May. The investigators probe complaints against teachers and determine if the board should consider revoking their teaching certificates. The board also wants Douglas to redirect Internet traffic from an old board website maintained by the superintendent to the new site the board set up after it moved.

"When you're blocking investigations of teachers that potentially would be pedophiles in the classroom, that's serious business," board member Jared Taylor said after the board unanimously voted Sept. 15 to sue Douglas. Taylor backed Douglas in her 2014 campaign and her push to replace the state's Common Core school standards.

Douglas sued the board in May, asking a judge to rule that she had the power to hire and fire the board's staff. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Patricia Starr ruled in July that state law "establishes that the power to fire board employees lies with the board." Douglas is appealing that ruling.

Douglas' staff has said she will not allow remote access to Department of Education files because they contain sensitive information that must be protected. The website issue is tied up in the power struggle over who controls the board and its employees.

Spokesman Charles Tack said Wednesday that Douglas hasn't reviewed the lawsuit. But Tack noted that the board criticized the lawsuit she filed and now has turned around and done essentially the same thing.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Douglas is breaking the law by failing to execute board policies and orders requiring her to comply.