FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Glenn J. Cooper and Glenn J.Cooper Detective Agency, Inc.,
against Docket #FIC 93-328
Superintendent of Schools, Brookfield Public Schools,
Respondent August 24, 1994
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 22, 1994, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. Docket # FIC 93-324, Glenn J. Cooper and Glenn J. Cooper Detective Agency, Inc. v. Superintendent of Schools, Brookfield Public Schools was consolidated with the above-captioned matter for purpose of hearing.
At the hearing Celine Cracco, who is a subject of the records at issue was granted party status in accordance with the provisions of 1-21i(b), G.S. The records at issue were also accepted by the Commission under seal, and an in camera inspection conducted.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. It is found that by letter dated November 16, 1993, the complainants requested from the respondent access to copies of records of complaints filed against Celine Cracco, a teacher employed within the Brookfield School system, and also the result of any investigations and action taken.
3. It is found that by letter dated November 24, 1993 the respondent denied the complainants' request claiming that disclosure of the requested records would invade Cracco's privacy.
4. Having failed to receive the requested records the complainants, by letter dated December 6, 1993 and filed with the Commission on December 8, 1993, appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying them access to the requested complaint records.
Docket #FIC 93-328 Page 2
5. It is found that the respondent notified Cracco of the complainant's records request by letter dated November 24, 1993.
6. It is found that Cracco objected to the disclosure of the requested records and her objection was received by the respondent on December 3, 1993.
7. It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), and 1-19(a), G.S.
8. At the hearing in this matter, the respondent claimed that the requested complaint records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(2), 1-19(b)(11), 10-15b and 10-151c, G.S, and 20 U.S.C. 1232g.
9. Sections 1-19(b)(2) and 1-19(b)(11), G.S., state in pertinent part:
Nothing in [the Freedom of Information Act] shall be construed to require disclosure of (2) personnel or medical files and similiar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy; (11) names and addresses of students enrolled in any public school ... without the consent of each student whose name or address is to be disclosed who is eighteen years of age or older and a parent or guardian of each such student who is younger than eighteen years of age....
10. Section 10-15b(a), G.S., gives a parent of a minor student a right of access to all educational, medical, or similiar records maintained in the student's cumulative record, except certain confidential communications made privately by the student to a teacher or nurse concerning drug or alcohol abuse, which records are privileged under 10-154a, G.S.
11. Section 10-151c, G.S., states in pertinent part:
Any records maintained or kept on file by any local or regional board of education which are records of teacher performance or evaluation shall not be deemed public records and shall not be subject to the provisions of section 1-19, provided that any teacher may consent in writing to the release of such records. [Emphasis added].
Docket #FIC 93-328 Page 3
12. 20 U.S.C. 1232g, conditions funding to educational agencies and institutions on nondisclosure of students' education records, unless parental consent is received, and restricts a parent's right of access to those portions of a student's educational records that specifically relate to that parent's child.
13. The Commission takes administrative notice of the findings and decision in Docket #FIC 94-11 Robert Grabar, Edward Frede and The News-Times v. Superintendent of Schools, Brookfield Public Schools and Brookfield Board of Education.
14. It is found that the in camera records comprise 78 documents, numbered 1 through 78, which documents consist of a total of 158 pages.
15. It is found that of the documents submitted in camera, only those documents numbered 18 through 78, inclusive, constitute records of complaints and the responses of school officials to such complaints.
16. It is found that for the most part the records described in paragraph 14, above, are maintained in Cracco's personnel file, however, some are maintained in an investigation file.
16. It is concluded that in camera documents 18 through 78, inclusive, constitute personnel file records within the meaning of 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
17. It is found that in camera documents 18 through 78, inclusive, directly pertain to the classroom teaching methods utilized by a public school teacher while instructing and disciplining minor school children.
18. It is also found that there is legitimate public concern in matters concerning the classroom conduct of public school teachers.
19. It is found that the respondent failed to prove that disclosure of the text of in camera documents 18 through 78, inclusive, is highly offensive to the reasonable person.
20. Accordingly, it is concluded that in camera documents 18 through 78, inclusive, are not exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(2), G.S.
Docket #FIC 93-328 Page 4
21. With respect to the claim of exemption pursuant to 20 U.S.C. 1232g and 10-15b, G.S., it is concluded that the respondents failed to prove that the records at issue are exempt from disclosure pursuant to these provisions.
22. With respect to the claim of exemption pursuant to 1-19(b)(11), G.S., it is found that in camera documents 18 through 78 are replete with references to the names and addresses of minor children.
23. It is concluded that all references to the names and addresses of minor children are permissibly exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-19(b)(11), G.S.
24. It is concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainants with access to copies of in camera documents 18 through 78, inclusive.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondents shall immediately provide the complainants, free of charge, with a copy of in camera documents 18 through 78, inclusive.
2. In complying with paragraph 1 of the order, the respondent may redact the names and addresses of all minor students as permitted under 1-19(b)(11), G.S.
3. Hencefoth, the respondent shall strictly comply with the provisions of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 24, 1994.
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 93-328 Page 5
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S. THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
GLENN J. COOPER and GLENN J. COOPER DETECTIVE AGENCY, INC.
c/o Alan M. Barry, Esq.
64 North Street
Danbury, CT 06810
SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, BROOKFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS
c/o Robert J. Murphy, Esq.
Sullivan, Lettick & Schoen
646 Prospect Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105
c/o Ronald Cordilico, Esq.
21 Oak Street
Hartford, CT 06106-8001
Debra L. Rembowski
Clerk of the Commission