Gilbert Anti-Abortion Textbook Sticker Decision Didn't Violate Arizona Law

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No open-meeting violation occurred over an order to place anti-abortion stickers in Gilbert Public Schools' biology textbooks in August, the Arizona Attorney General's Office ruled.

However, the school district's governing board was set to receive mandatory training on Arizona's Open Meeting Law Tuesday night at a special session because of a minor matter that had nothing to do with the controversy. 

The stickers caused a huge flap over the summer when Superintendent Christina Kishimoto ordered all biology textbooks for the ninth, 10th, and 11th grades for this school year to have an anti-abortion, pro-abstinence message pasted on them to appease religious conservatives in the community.

As ludicrous as that may seem, the decision to add the stickers was a compromise for those who wanted an offending page of an honors biology textbook torn out because it mentioned abortion.

Following last November's election, the liberal majority on the board showed no interest in censoring the textbooks. A district spokeswoman told New Times that the sticker was chosen because some people in the community believed the textbooks needed to comport better to an Arizona law that requires public schools to promote childbirth and adoption over abortion. The sticker mentions the law and encourages kids who have questions about sex education issues to contact their parents.

Conservative board member Daryl Colvin, though, felt he'd been left out of the sticky decision and filed a complaint with the AG's Office alleging a violation of the state's Open Meeting Law had occurred. Colvin's August 26 complaint says Kishimoto publicly stated that she had received "new direction" from the board to have the stickers added. Colvin was one of the board members who voted last year to have two pages removed from the honors textbooks.

Yet no evidence exists that some board members met in secret to discuss the sticker issue, assistant AG Christopher Munns stated in the office's ruling. In fact, the board even mentioned the idea of "adding supplemental materials to the books" at one public meeting in December, Munns noted.

"The issue of whether the superintendent exceeded her authority by taking action without a formal vote of the board does not fall within the scope" of the Open Meeting Law, Munns wrote.

Kishimoto apparently took her action in "direct contravention" of last year's ruling to remove the pages — a ruling that was never rescinded, Colvin says.

"The other side has got its way," Colvin lamented, adding that he won't "throw a temper tantrum."

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