Sunday, January 24, 2010

A little more info re: the FOI and teachers' personal information...

From John Curry, January 24, 2010
Below is some FOI news that may be of use to CORE members. These articles came from the Ohio Coalition for Open Government and, if you click the link below, you'll get eight more pages of Ohio FOI information from those who use the FOI request quite often - Ohio's newspapers. It's a good read!
Teachers’ data are private, union leader tells judge
From The Columbus Dispatch The head of Ohio’s largest teachers union told a judge, during Dec. 21 testimony, that releasing the names, addresses and other personal information of licensed teachers, administrators and school staff puts their safety and privacy at risk. “Acts of violence, verbal abuse and threats” were among the concerns cited by Patricia Frost-Brooks, president of the Ohio Education Association. The union is seeking a permanent injunction blocking the Department of Education from releasing the information. It was requested by the Ohio Republican Party under the state’s public records law.
After a four-hour hearing in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, Judge Daniel Hogan said he would keep in place a temporary restraining order preventing the state agency from releasing the information until he decides whether to grant a permanent injunction. Hogan will hear arguments from attorneys for both sides on March 19.
During cross examination by Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, Frost-Brooks said she had received only four complaints from her members about the issue. She also acknowledged that the information is also available from property records and voting records kept by county governments.
The Ohio attorney general’s office, representing the Education Department, says the information is considered government records and subject to disclosure upon request. There are no exemptions protecting the personal information of educators, attorneys say. In testimony, an Education Department employee stated that the department’s database includes the names of up to 900,000 who have or once had educator licenses in Ohio.
Paper may seek lawyer fees from schools
The Supreme Court ruled November 2009 that the appeals court had properly dismissed the Enquirer's claim based on mootness.
"Nevertheless, as we recently held in a different public records mandamus case ... 'even if the Enquirer's mandamus claim were properly dismissed as moot, a claim for attorney fees in a public records mandamus action is not rendered moot by the provision of the requested records after the case has been filed,'" justices said in an opinion that did not identify an author.
Concurring were Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and Justices Maureen O'Connor, Judith Lanzinger, and Robert Cupp. Justices Paul Pfeifer, Evelyn Stratton and Terrence O'Donnell agreed with the decision to dismiss the newspaper's mandamus claim, but said the request for attorney fees also should have been dismissed.
"I believe that the requested documents did not constitute public records ... when the Enquirer made its initial request," Justice Stratton said.
"The district was not obligated to produce copies of the documents until it had used them to carry out the school district's duties and responsibilities, at which point they became public records subject to inspection," she said.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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