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Judge allows public school with ties to polygamy to keep its board, for now

New hearing ‘on the merits’ scheduled in October
Posted at 9:27 PM, Sep 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-07 23:53:34-04

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — For now, a Utah judge is stopping the state from firing the entire board at a public school run by the polygamous Kingston group.

In August, the Utah State Charter School Board (SCSB) voted to remove and replace all nine of Vanguard Academy’s board members.

Attorneys for both the SCSB and Vanguard Academy presented arguments on Wednesday as to whether the state’s decision should be temporarily reversed.

Judge Laura Scott ultimately ruled the status of Vanguard Academy’s board should be maintained until another hearing can be held in October to discuss the merits of the case.

The ruling was not made with respect to the school’s spending of taxpayer money on family businesses or its religious ties. Judge Scott declined to hear or consider those arguments until October.

Vanguard Academy will remain on “probation” and is still expected to receive a new director and finance officer on Thursday, as appointed by the SCSB.

How secretive meetings led to the firing of an entire school board with ties to polygamy

Dave Mortensen, an attorney representing Vanguard Academy, attempted to convince the court that there would be “irreparable harm” to the school if the board is replaced before October’s hearing.

One of his primary arguments included how parents are threatening to remove their children.

“Next week, you’ll have no students at that school,” Mortensen said. “The effect will be this school will be out of business by this time next week.”

Judge Scott said she was “skeptical” of that argument, ultimately finding the claims “unpersuasive” because the alleged harm is “self-inflicted.”

Instead, she said the basis for her decision was to protect the status of pending litigation.

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As Mortensen argued, a newly-appointed board could theoretically dismiss pending lawsuits if it is installed prior to the October hearing.

An attorney representing the SCSB did not dispute Vanguard Academy’s argument, declining to speculate on what a newly-appointed board might do.

Both sides will have the opportunity to present evidence and examine witnesses at the October 4, 2022 hearing.

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