Superintendent’s defamation lawsuit against state leaders nears conclusion

Heritage Academy superintendent Christine Ivie’s three-year defamation lawsuit against the Idaho Public Charter School Commission (PCSC) is poised to go before a jury this fall.

The case began nearly four years ago and there are more than 50 court filings, by either the defendants’ or plaintiff’s attorneys. 

The defendants are listed as the PCSC, Alan Reed, Nils Peterson and Kirsten Pochop. Reed and Peterson still serve on the commission’s board, and Pochop is no longer a program manager.

Although the trial date is not set, Ivie and the defendants notified the courts through filings two months ago that they are available after September for a potential trial, according Jerome County court documents.

The following list is a short timeline of the events leading up to Ivie’s civil lawsuit.

  • April, 2019: the commission held a closed-door executive session.
  • June, 2019:  two-hour recording of the executive session inadvertently released.
  • July, 2019: attorney general’s office said it would pursue open meeting complaint.
  • July, 2019: the commission admitted to the violations.
  • Sept, 2019: Ivie files $500,000 tort claim with Idaho Secretary of State’s Office.

On March 18, 2020, Ivie’s attorney filed a complaint with Jerome County requesting a jury trial. The claim seeks the maximum amount allowed under Idaho law for such claims, $500,000. At the time of publication, Ivie’s attorney was unavailable for comment. 

Ivie’s lawsuit alleges members of the PCSC defamed the administrator, causing damage to her professional reputation and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

This lawsuit stems from a 2019 PCSC incident. The PCSC violated Idaho’s open meeting law during a closed-door executive session. Idaho’s attorney general said in 2019 the commission appeared to discuss topics that should have been addressed in a public setting, not a closed executive session. 

Leaked audio of the meeting revealed insensitive and offensive comments directed at Ivie, Heritage Academy and the city of Jerome, according to the court documents. 

During the closed-door meeting, commissioners signaled out test scores at Heritage, expressed regret that the school remained open and suggested Ivie applauded low test scores, because her school would qualify for increased funding.

The lawsuit alleges that these “derogatory, untrue, defamatory statements” about Ivie were made with malice, meaning they were intended to harm the long-time administrator.

Court documents indicate that when scheduled, the trial would take place before a 12-person jury.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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