BOISE — Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin made public a collection of documents to journalists Thursday shortly after a judge again ordered her to reveal the records.
The public records included feedback from the public regarding her newly created Education Task Force, which was tasked with investigating alleged “indoctrination” in the state’s public school system, something McGeachin said was necessary to “protect our young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism and Marxism.”
Several journalists first requested copies of the public records months ago. But McGeachin’s office mostly denied the requests, telling some reporters it would cost them hundreds of dollars to access the materials and cited exemptions to Idaho’s public records law that didn’t apply to the documents.
McGeachin also falsely claimed in public Facebook posts that the journalists were only seeking the records to encourage employers to retaliate against anyone who expressed concerns about the state’s public education system
In July, the Idaho Press Club sued McGeachin for the documents on behalf of Audrey Dutton and Clark Corbin with the Idaho Capital Sun, Blake Jones with Idaho Education News and Hayat Norimine with the Idaho Statesman.
In August, 4th District Judge Steven Hippler sided with the state press association and ordered McGeachin to release the documents. In the scathing ruling, Hippler said McGeachin’s attempts to withhold the documents were baseless and frivolous, noting that she tried to use an exemption that applied to hunting and fishing licenses to to keep the materials hidden.
After that ruling, McGeachin did not release the documents for weeks. When some journalists pressed again to get the public records, McGeachin’s attorneys asked the judge to reconsider his motion, effectively delaying their release.
She never followed up the legal request with a required court filing that would have explained her legal arguments in more detail.
On Wednesday, the Idaho Press Club asked Hippler to hold McGeachin in contempt of court for keeping the documents hidden. The next day, the judge denied McGeachin’s motion for relief, requiring the lieutenant governor to release the records. Her office did so a short time later.
“This approach is nothing short of sandbagging … She cannot now attempt a second bite of the apple under the guise of ‘unique and compelling circumstances.’ Any other conclusion would erode the public’s right to prompt examination of public records under the Act,” the judge wrote in Thursday’s order.
McGeachin did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press.
The documents released Thursday included thousands of comments from people who identified themselves as parents, students and concerned citizens, the Idaho Statesman reported.
Many of the comments were in opposition to the task force, with some saying McGeachin was supporting censorship. Others said children need to learn history and how to think critically.
Some of the comments in support of the task force expressed concerns that critical race theory was being taught in schools, although educators have said critical race theory isn’t taught at the preschools, elementary or secondary school level.