Judge rules Idaho school board recall qualifies for ballot

A district court judge ruled on February 22, 2021, that a recall effort against Idaho Falls School District 91 board of trustees member Lara Hill had successfully qualified for the ballot. A recall election against board member Elizabeth Cogliati is already scheduled for March 9.

The recall effort against Cogliati and Hill began after the board of trustees voted 3-2 on September 30, 2020, to move high schools in the district from in-person instruction five days a week to a mixture of in-person instruction two days a week and online instruction the other three days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cogliati and Hill voted in favor of the change in instruction along with trustee Hillary Radcliffe, while trustees Paul Haacke and Larry Haws voted against it.

Superintendent George Boland said the goal for the change in instruction was to reduce the number of coronavirus cases and related quarantines and absences at the high schools. The school district had reported 90 coronavirus cases among students and staff between the beginning of the school year and October 9, 2020. Recall supporters said the district’s online classes were low quality and putting students at a disadvantage.

The recall effort initially sought to recall all three board members who voted in favor of changing to hybrid instruction. The effort against Radcliffe did not collect enough signatures and did not submit the petition by the deadline.

Signatures for the recall of Hill and Cogliati were both submitted on December 28, 2020. The Bonneville County Clerk’s Office verified enough signatures to put the recall against Cogliati on the ballot but found that the petition against Hill did not have enough valid signatures. Recall supporters filed a lawsuit against the county clerk, alleging that nine signatures that had been rejected should have been verified. The court ruled in favor of the recall supporters.

Hill’s recall election had not been scheduled as of February 24. After March 9, the next county election dates scheduled are May 18 and August 31.

Recall efforts against school board members started in three other school districts in Idaho in 2020. All of the efforts named their school board’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for recall. The effort in the West Ada school district did not go to a vote but saw two members resign from their positions. The recall effort against Aaron Proctor in the Whitepine School District went to the ballot on November 3 and was approved with 57% of the vote, resulting in Proctor’s removal from office. The recall effort against three board members in the Pocatello-Chubbuck school district was approved for the ballot, and the elections were scheduled for March 9.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

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