FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Donald H. Schiller and The Meriden Record Co.,

 

Complainants,

 

against Docket #FIC 87-83

 

Meriden Board of Education, President, Meriden Board of Education, and Meriden Superintendent of Schools,

 

Respondents June 10, 1987

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 29, 1987, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found:

 

1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter dated February 17, 1987, the complainants asked the respondents to provide copies of the following records:

 

a. any complaints filed against Robert Sorensen, a Meriden teacher;

 

b. the results of the respondent board's investigation of the complaints;

 

c. the minutes of the respondent board's meeting about Mr. Sorensen's resignation;

 

d. and Mr. Sorensen's letter of resignation.

 

3. The complainants received the records described in paragraphs 2c and d, above.

 

4. The records described in paragraph 2b, above, do not exist.

 

Docket #FIC 87-83 Page Two

 

5. The respondents made a timely verbal denial of the complainants' request for the records described in paragraph 2a, above, and formalized their denial in a letter dated March 9, 1987.

 

6. By letter of complaint dated March 24, 1987, and filed on March 25, 1987, the complainants appealed to the Commission from the respondents' denial.

 

7. The respondents claim the records in question are exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S., as personnel or similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of privacy. The respondents claim the privacy of both the teacher and those who complained about him would be invaded.

 

8. The respondents further claim that to the extent those who complained were students, records of their complaints are prohibited from disclosure as educational records under 20 U.S.C. 1232g, commonly called the Buckley Amendment.

 

9. The respondents also claim that determining the disclosability of the records in question requires in camera review of those records by the Commission.

 

10. It is found that the records in question are part of the personnel file of a public employee.

 

11. It is also found that there is a legitimate public interest in the disclosure of the requested records.

 

12. It is further found that disclosure would not constitute an invasion of the personal privacy of the subject teacher, who voluntarily chose to serve the public and be paid with public funds.

 

13. It is concluded that the requested records, described in paragraph 2a, above, are not exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(2), G.S.

 

14. It is found, however, that disclosure of the records might invade the privacy of those who complained about Mr. Sorensen or other persons identified in the requested records.

 

15. Although not specifically claimed, the Commission notes that the identities of those who complained about Mr. Sorensen may be exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(11), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 87-83 Page Three

 

16. It is also found that the Buckley Amendment's prohibition against disclosure of records is not compulsory or mandatory, but merely a condition precedent to the granting of federal funds to educational institutions.

 

17. It is concluded, therefore, that the records in question are not exempt from disclosure under 20 U.S.C. 1232g.

 

18. It is found that the records described in paragraph 2a, above, do not constitute teacher evaluation and performance records within the meaning of 10-151c, G.S.

 

19. It is also concluded that the respondents violated 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by denying the complainants' request for copies of the complaints against Mr. Sorensen with information identifying others redacted.

 

20. The Commission declines to inspect the records in camera under 1-27j-35 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.

 

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

 

1. The respondents forthwith shall provide the complainants with a copy of the documents described in paragraph 2a, above. The respondents may redact, mask or otherwise conceal information that identifies persons other than Mr. Sorensen.

 

2. The respondents henceforth shall act in strict compliance with 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 10, 1987.

 

 

Catherine I. Hostetter

Acting Clerk of the Commission