Charter superintendent files defamation claim against commission

The superintendent of a Jerome-based charter school has filed a $500,000 defamation claim against the Idaho Public Charter School Commission.

Heritage Academy Superintendent Christine Ivie is pursuing legal action against the commission for “defamation, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy,” the Idaho Statesman’s Cynthia Sewell reports.

Christine Ivie

The tort claim, filed Sept. 23 with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office, is the latest in an ongoing saga stemming from leaked audio of an April commission meeting in which commissioners discussed in executive session financial “malpractice,” low performance and possibly closing some charter schools.

The commission accidentally released a recording of the two-hour meeting in June.

Ivie’s name came up several times in the recording. At one point, someone said the superintendent “broke my heart” by expressing happiness at the school’s descent into the state’s 5 percent of lowest performing schools, because low performance means “more money” for the school.

“That’s malpractice,” someone else said on the recording.

“Christine should run a social service agency, not a school,” another unidentified commissioner said.

At another point in the recording, Commission Chairman Alan Reed expressed regret that Heritage had been allowed to remain open.

Ivie’s tort claim states that commissioners “repeatedly and outrageously insulted” Ivie and Heritage students, Sewell reports.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden received four complaints about the closed-door meeting. The A.G.’s office investigated the matter and concluded in July that the commission appeared to violate Idaho’s open meeting law.

The commission later admitted to breaking the law and spent much of the summer weathering blowback from the controversy.

A tort claim is a precursor to a lawsuit. The state has 90 days to respond to Ivie’s claim, Sewell reports.

The claim seeks the maximum amount allowed under Idaho law for such claims, $500,000.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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