Every year civil grand juries are convened to investigate and issue reports related to allegations of wrongdoing by public agencies, including school districts and community college districts. As the annual terms of grand jury members end in June, many grand juries will be issuing final reports that require responses from public agencies. It is important for school districts and community college districts faced with grand jury findings to know when and how to respond in order to comply with the law and provide an appropriate response or clarification for the public.
In the California grand jury system, civil grand juries serve dual roles. The first role is to act as a civil watchdog of civil corruption, while the second is to investigate alleged crimes and decide whether to file an indictment against someone. In their watchdog role, grand juries may investigate local agencies, including school districts and community college districts, and issue findings and recommendations at the conclusion of their investigations. As grand jury membership turns over every July, many of these reports are issued at the end of June.
Once a civil grand jury issues a report with findings related to a school district or community college district, the district has a legal obligation to provide a written response to the report within 90 days. In its response, the school district or community college district must indicate: (1) if it agrees or disagrees, in part or wholly, with any “findings” contained in the report; and, (2) if it has implemented, will implement, will study, or will not implement any recommendations contained in the report. Beyond the legally required responses, the district may include additional information in its response if it seeks to provide an explanation or clarification regarding the subject of the report. Both the report and the district’s response are public records.
If your school district or community college district is the subject of a civil grand jury report, we recommend working with counsel to draft an appropriate and timely response. Members of Dannis Woliver Kelley’s Board Ethics, Transparency and Accountability (BETA) and Litigation practice groups are available to assist your district with questions regarding grand juries. Please contact us if we can be of assistance.