In Public Access Opinion 22-006, the Illinois Public Access Counselor (PAC) found that a school board violated the Open Meetings Act by implementing a change to the district’s masking requirements for students and staff without setting forth the general subject matter of the final action on the meeting agenda.
At a meeting on February 10, 2022, a school board discussed the superintendent’s recommended COVID-19 Reduction Plan and reached a consensus on removing masking requirements for students and staff. The board also directed the superintendent to notify the community of the change. The agenda for the February 10 meeting, however, did not contain an agenda item identifying the general subject matter of a change to the district’s masking requirements. While the board did not vote on any change to the masking guidelines, the PAC concluded that the board’s consensus and directive to the Superintendent constituted final action by the board. In reaching its conclusion, the PAC noted that the OMA authorizes a board to discuss matters not on the agenda at a regular meeting and that boards may express a consensus on an issue and subsequently take final action by vote. In this case, however, the board’s action at the meeting disposed of the masking question. As a result, the board’s consensus and directive constituted final action on the change to the district’s masking requirement.
The OMA requires that meeting agendas “set forth the general subject matter of any resolution or ordinance that will be the subject of final action at the meeting.” Because the meeting agenda did not contain the general subject matter of a change to the district’s masking requirements, and because the PAC concluded that the board took final action on changing mask requirements, it violated OMA.
This opinion clarifies the PAC’s broad view of “final action” under the OMA. Even though the OMA permits discussion of issues not on the agenda at a regular meeting, if a board’s discussion brings a matter to a resolution, that can constitute final action requiring a sufficient agenda item. To err on the side of caution, school boards could place discussion items the board could potentially resolve—even if styled as recommendations or plans of action—on the agenda.