School District won't give me records about MY OWN CHILD! - Mothering Forums
Special Needs Parenting > School District won't give me records about MY OWN CHILD!
pattimomma's Avatar pattimomma 09:04 AM 10-25-2012

I made a request under the GA Open Records Act wanting to obtain some school records from my district and this is the reply I got.

 

This email is in response to your Open Records Act request to the BLANK County School District (“School District”), received September 4, 2012.  Specifically, you requested the following:

 

1.        “All email communications involving My Child's Name, [My Name] son, since January 2012 to present.”

2.       “All email communications regarding Teacher's Name receiving Orton Gillingham instruction this summer (the time line for this request is from January 2012 to present).”

3.        “All email communications regarding placement or potential placement of My son's name at Schools Name [Charter] Middle School.”

 

The School District estimates that it will take at least 93 hours, and approximately three weeks to retrieve and redact the records before they are available for inspection.  The estimated cost for the retrieval and redaction of these records is approximately $2,225 (73 hours x $25 per hour for retrieval, plus 20 hours x $20 per hour for redaction).  Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71(d), the School District will defer search and retrieval of the requested records until you or your client agrees to pay the estimated costs. 

 

 

Redact - excuse me but nothing should be redacted (hidden) from my view when it concerns my child!

 

$2,225 to get these records, WTF, somebody must have something to hide. The last time I made the request I got the records for free!

 

Just needed to vent. Thanks!



mamarhu's Avatar mamarhu 11:19 AM 10-27-2012

I would be furious!!!

 

Does your area have an agency with an educational advocate? In my county, NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) offers special ed support. So do several state-specific non-profits, and even one of the school districts. Get some back-up, even a lawyer if you can afford one, and go in with the full cavalry. This is so totally WRONG!
 


SoCaliMommy's Avatar SoCaliMommy 07:59 PM 10-28-2012

 I agree with Mamarhu 


MeepyCat's Avatar MeepyCat 08:23 PM 10-28-2012

Redact - it cannot be assumed that an email meeting the criteria in your request contains no information concerning other students, which student privacy law would require the school district not to release without authorization from those students or their parents.  It also cannot be assumed that emails meeting the criteria in your request contained no information about individuals besides your child which might be protected under HIPPA or other privacy laws.  I seldom send an email concerning only one subject, it's not "please cut a check for Professor X, who submitted his draft chapter," it's more like "Professor X submitted his draft!  Can you cut him a check?  We are still waiting for chapters from Professors Y and Z.  BTW, I will have you a conference budget by the end of the day, and Co-Worker had a daycare emergency and had to run home - she's reachable by cell and will work from home this evening."  So if Professor X ever requested all the emails about him, I'd have to black out everything after the question mark.

 

You have made an extraordinarily broad request, concerning a huge amount of information.  The school district would incur genuine expenses in complying with this request.  Under the law, they have the legal right to ask you to bear these expenses.  By all means, talk to a lawyer, but expect a lawyer to tell you what I just have:  They can't just run a word search and turn the results over. 


pattimomma's Avatar pattimomma 06:30 AM 10-29-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by MeepyCat View Post

 

You have made an extraordinarily broad request, concerning a huge amount of information.  The school district would incur genuine expenses in complying with this request.  Under the law, they have the legal right to ask you to bear these expenses.  By all means, talk to a lawyer, but expect a lawyer to tell you what I just have:  They can't just run a word search and turn the results over. 

 

My attorney made the request on my behalf. The point is that the last time I made a similar request they gave them to me for free.


chiefmir's Avatar chiefmir 11:22 AM 10-29-2012

That is SO frustrating!!

 

I am taking a TOTAL shot in the dark here... but I wonder if maybe the difference is that the first time YOU made the request and the second time your LAWYER made the request? something along the lines of their radar geting turned on that something was amiss the second time and running the request by a "higher up" (principal, district special ed director, lawyer, whatever) who gave a differnt answer) versus someone just taking care of it lower down the foodchain themselves the first time?

 

Or maybe because it was a 2nd request they got nervous? My sense- again, not from this exact kind of situation, is that once lawyers are involved- schools and a lot of other entitiies stop giving away stuff for free (be it time, info or what have you) and start following the letter of the law of what they are entitled to request, and start their own paper trail etc.

 

I hope it all works out well and quickly for you.


MamaBookworm's Avatar MamaBookworm 11:41 AM 10-29-2012

That sounds really frustrating and you must have a pretty serious problem to want those records. It seems like in this age of technology it should be easier to search for records, but I agree with MeepyCat that it would be a huge undertaking to gather all that, and then censor for confidential info. Also, I'm a Reading Specialist trained in Orton Gillingham, among other things, if you have some questions or concerns about your child's reading, feel free to PM me and I would be happy to try and help you out. 


Linda on the move's Avatar Linda on the move 01:43 PM 10-29-2012
I don't think "emails" are the same as "records".

I also don't understand why you don't archive significant emails. Some of my communication with school, I intentionally do through email so I can go back and review the date, exact wording, etc. I then file them away.

We don't have drama with the school, and if we did, I would take it a step further and make a back up copy.
pattimomma's Avatar pattimomma 02:07 PM 10-29-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by chiefmir View Post

That is SO frustrating!!

 

I am taking a TOTAL shot in the dark here... but I wonder if maybe the difference is that the first time YOU made the request and the second time your LAWYER made the request?

Yes, that's what happened.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaBookworm View Post

That sounds really frustrating and you must have a pretty serious problem to want those records. It seems like in this age of technology it should be easier to search for records, but I agree with MeepyCat that it would be a huge undertaking to gather all that, and then censor for confidential info. Also, I'm a Reading Specialist trained in Orton Gillingham, among other things, if you have some questions or concerns about your child's reading, feel free to PM me and I would be happy to try and help you out. 

It's a huge problem. The US Department of Justice is involved. I met with them last week. Maybe they will end up subpoenaing the messages.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

I don't think "emails" are the same as "records".
I also don't understand why you don't archive significant emails. Some of my communication with school, I intentionally do through email so I can go back and review the date, exact wording, etc. I then file them away.
We don't have drama with the school, and if we did, I would take it a step further and make a back up copy.

According to my attorney emails are the same as records and are subject to the open records act.

 

I have all the emails sent between myself and the school, since the beginning of time smile.gif I also have all the emails sent between only school staff and faculty regarding my child before the requested dates. It's an issue with predetermined placement, which my attorney is convinced can be proven in court if we get a hold of the emails. The last set of emails, between only school people, before the requested dates, that I have is quite incriminating but we want the slam dunk.


MeepyCat's Avatar MeepyCat 06:02 PM 10-29-2012

So there's an active lawsuit going on?

 

There's your answer then - last time you requested info, it was handled by the school administration.  This time, what with the lawsuit, their lawyer took a look at it, and told them to cooperate to the exact extent required by law.  The lawyer probably gave that advice on general principles - lawyers are professionally cagey.  And YOUR lawyer should have advised you to expect this.


pattimomma's Avatar pattimomma 06:46 PM 10-29-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by MeepyCat View Post

So there's an active lawsuit going on?

 

There's your answer then - last time you requested info, it was handled by the school administration.  This time, what with the lawsuit, their lawyer took a look at it, and told them to cooperate to the exact extent required by law.  The lawyer probably gave that advice on general principles - lawyers are professionally cagey.  And YOUR lawyer should have advised you to expect this.


No, there is no lawsuit yet. The DOJ is currently only conducting an investigation. I may file a private lawsuit though.


Linda on the move's Avatar Linda on the move 09:59 PM 10-29-2012

I can see why they responded they way they did.

 

This is a big deal, and they are following the letter of the law.

 

Good luck, and I am sorry for the all the events that have led you to this point. This is way beyond a simple request for records though. What you seek isn't simple, and you are HOPING that it nails them to the wall.
 


pattimomma's Avatar pattimomma 06:08 AM 10-30-2012

I guess I should clarify. My attorney attends IEP meetings with me so a district attorney and the district director of special ed is always at the meetings. So the first records request that included emails, that I got for free, was made by me in an IEP meeting with attorneys and the director present. The second request was made by my attorney. My attorney warned me that they would charge something if it was information that they wanted to withhold but I didn't expect it to exceed $1,000. My attorney also responded saying that it was not a reasonable fee. My district is also under investigation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools which gives it accreditation. This is not a problem unique to my family.
 


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