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McGeachin releases Idaho task force records a day after contempt complaint was filed

Idaho

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Editor’s note: Many Idaho Statesman journalists are members of the Idaho Press Club. Opinion Editor Scott McIntosh is a Press Club board member and chairman of the First Amendment Committee. He was a signer of the original public records lawsuit in this case.

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — After wrangling in court and a set of arguments that a 4th District Court judge called “frivolous,” Lt. Gen. Janice McGeachin has released documents to the media pertaining to her education task force that investigated supposed indoctrination in Idaho’s public schools.

McGeachin made the documents available Thursday, a day after a lawyer for the Idaho Press Club filed a petition against the lieutenant governor for contempt of court. Also yesterday, District Judge Steven Hippler denied her motion for relief from judgment, keeping in place his ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Idaho Press Club, an association of Idaho journalists.

The lawsuit stemmed from McGeachin’s refusal to release feedback from the public that her task force solicited as part of its effort to “examine indoctrination in Idaho education and to protect our young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism, and Marxism.”

The task force held four meetings, from May through August — all of which were at least four hours long — at which members heard primarily from people who supported their claims of indoctrination. At the task force’s final meeting, it heard from members of the public and came up with a series of mostly vague recommendations.

The documents released Thursday include thousands of comments from people who identified themselves as parents, students and concerned citizens. Many of the comments were in opposition to the task force, saying public officials should let teachers do their jobs. People said it was important that children learned history and how to think critically, and accused McGeachin of supporting censorship.

Others expressed concern about critical race theory being taught in schools. Idaho educators told the Idaho Statesman over the summer that critical race theory is not taught in K-12 schools in the state.

The fight over the release of the records started after three Idaho journalists requested the contents of the public comments submitted to McGeachin and the task force. In response, the lieutenant governor’s office sent documents with all of the feedback redacted, and asked each reporter to pay hundreds of dollars for the work.

A lawsuit was filed in July by the Idaho Press Club on behalf of the reporters, saying that McGeachin was violating Idaho’s public records law. In August, Hippler ordered McGeachin to release the unredacted responses to a Google Form survey she created to solicit feedback, to pay the Press Club’s legal fees and to pay a $750 civil penalty for denying the records “deliberately and in bad faith.”

On Wednesday — when reporters still had not received the records the judge ordered the lieutenant governor to release — a lawyer for the Idaho Press Club filed the petition for contempt, which asked that a judge detain McGeachin in jail until she released them.

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