FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-023|
Voluntown School District;
and Principal, Voluntown Elementary School,
Voluntown School District
|Respondents||August 12, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 17, 1998 at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The case caption was modified to correctly identify the respondents.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of §1-18a(1), G.S.
2. It is found that on January 9, 1998 an incident occurred on a school bus during which the complainant alleges that her daughter, a student on the bus, was verbally abused, spat at and hit in the head by other students (the incident).
3. By letter dated January 15, 1998 the complainant requested that the respondents provide her with certain records pertaining to an investigation of the incident, including a video tape of the incident and several reports.
4. Having failed to receive a copy of the requested records, the complainant appealed to the Commission by letter dated January 23, 1998 and filed with the Commission on January 26, 1998, and supplemented by letter dated February 19, 1998 filed with the commission on February 26, 1998, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying her a copy of the requested records. In her February 19, 1998 letter the complainant requested that the commission impose a civil penalty upon the respondents.
5. It is found that by letter dated February 10, 1998 the complainant renewed her records request to the respondents. The February 10, 1998 request was for a copy of the following records pertaining to the incident:
i) video tape of the school bus incident;ii) bus drivers report;iii) bus coordinators report;iv) Mary Chinagos investigation report;v) disciplinary action/ punishment imposed in connection with the incident;vi) report sent to Geddis family; andvii) letter sent to NFA students that the respondent superintendent distributed.
6. It is found that the respondents have some records that are responsive to the complainants requests described in paragraphs 3 and 5, above.
7. Section 1-18a(5), G.S., defines public records or files as [a]ny recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.
8. Section 1-19(a), G.S., further provides, in relevant part:
Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15. Any agency rule or regulation, or part thereof, that conflicts with the provisions of this subsection or diminishes or curtails in any way the rights granted by this subsection shall be void.
9. It is concluded that the complainants requests described in paragraphs 3 and 5, above, constitute requests for public records within the meaning of §§1-18a(5) and 1- 19(a), G.S.
10. It is found that by letter dated February 19, 1998, the respondent superintendent provided the complainant with all the records the respondents have that are responsive to her requests, with the exception of a video tape and a letter.
11. It is also found that the respondent superintendent permitted the complainant access to inspect the video tape, but has denied her a copy.
12. The respondents contend that the video tape and letter, described in paragraph 10, above, are educational records exempt from disclosure pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act specifically, they cite 20 U.S.C. 1232g(a)(1)(A) and (B). The respondents further claim that that the video tape and letter are exempt from disclosure pursuant to §§1-19(b)(2), 1-19(b)(11), and 10-15b, G.S.
13. 20 U.S.C. §1232g(a)(1)(A) provides:
No funds shall be made available under any applicable program to any educational agency or institution which has a policy of denying, or which effectively prevents, the parents of students who are or have been in attendance at a school of such agency or at such institution, as the case may be, the right to inspect and review the education records of their children. If any material or document in the education record of a student includes information on more than one student, the parents of one of such students shall have the right to inspect and review only such part of such material or document as relates to such student or to be informed of the specific information contained in such part of such material. Each educational agency or institution shall establish appropriate procedures for the granting of a request by parents for access to the education records of their children within a reasonable period of time, but in no case more than forty-five days after the request has been made.
14. 20 U.S.C. §1232g(a)(1)(B) provides:
No funds under any applicable program shall be made available to any State educational agency (whether or not that agency is an educational agency or institution under this section) that has a policy of denying, or which effectively prevents, the parents of students the right to inspect and review the education records maintained by the State educational agency on their children who are or have been in attendance at any school of an educational agency or institution that is subject to the provisions of this section.
15. Following the hearing in this matter, the video tape and letter were reviewed in camera.
16. Educational records are defined at 20 U.S.C. §1232g(a)(4)(A) as those records, files, documents, and other materials which (i) contain information directly related to a student and (ii) are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a person acting for such agency or institution.
17. It is found that the video tape and letter are educational records within the meaning of 20 U.S.C. §1232g(a)(4)(A) and (B).
18. It is also found that 20 U.S.C. §1232g(a)(4)(A) and (B) require disclosure of educational records to the parents of students, and nothing in those provisions prohibit the respondents from providing a copy of the video tape and letter to the complainant.
19. Consequently, it is concluded that the video tape and letter are records subject to disclosure pursuant to 20 U.S.C. §§1232g(a)(1)(A), 1232g(a)(1)(B) and §1-19(a), G.S.
20. With respect to the respondents claim of exemption pursuant to §1-19(b)(2), G.S., such provision permits the nondisclosure of [p]ersonnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.
21. It is found that the video tape contains a record of what occurred on the school bus on the day of the incident, and the letter is from the respondents to the parents of a student concerning the incident.
22. It is also found that the video tape and letter are not personnel or medical files and similar files within the meaning of §1-19(b)(2), G.S.
23. Further, in determining whether the §1-19(b)(2), G.S., personal privacy exemption is applicable, the appropriate test is that set forth in Perkins v. Freedom of Information Commission, 228 Conn. 158, 175 (1993). The test requires that two elements be met: first, that the information sought does not pertain to legitimate matters of public concern, and second, that such information is highly offensive to a reasonable person.
24. It is found that the information contained in the video tape and letter pertains to legitimate matters of public concern.
25. It is also found that the information contained in the video tape and letter is not highly offensive to a reasonable person.
26. It is therefore, concluded that the video tape and letter are not exempt from disclosure pursuant to §1-19(b)(2), G.S.
27. With respect to the respondents claim of exemption pursuant to §10-15b, G.S., such provision provides, in relevant part:
(a) Either parent or legal guardian of a minor student shall, upon written request to a local or regional board of education and within a reasonable time, be entitled to knowledge of and access to all educational, medical, or similar records maintained in such student's cumulative record, except that no parent or legal guardian shall be entitled to information considered privileged under section 10-154a.
28. Section 10-154a(b), G.S., precludes the disclosure of any information acquired through a professional communication with a student, when such information concerns alcohol or drug abuse or any alcoholic or drug problem of such student except that physical evidence from the student, but not the students name, indicating that a crime has been or is being committed by such student is required to be turned over to school administrators or law enforcement officials.
29. It is found that the video tape and letter do not constitute information concerning alcohol or drug abuse or any alcoholic or drug problem communicated by a student within the meaning of §10-154a(b), G.S.
30. It is therefore, concluded that nothing in §§10-15b and 10-154a(b), G.S. precludes the disclosure of the video tape and letter to the complainant.
31. It is further concluded that the respondents violated §§1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S., when they failed to provide the complainant with a copy of the video tape and letter.
32. It is found however, that the letter contains the name and address of a student who is not the complainants child.
33. Section §1-19(b)(11), G.S., permits the nondisclosure of names or addresses of students enrolled in any public school if the parent has not consented.
34. Consequently, the students name and address, described in paragraph 32, above, may be redacted in accordance with §1-19(b)(11), G.S.
35. The Commission in its discretion declines to impose a civil penalty in this case.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Forthwith, the respondents shall provide the complainant with a copy of the video tape and letter. The respondents may redact the name and address of the student, described in paragraphs 32 and 34 of the findings, above, prior to providing the complainant with a copy of the letter.
2. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the disclosure requirements of §§1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of August 12, 1998.
_________________________ Doris V. Luetjen Acting Clerk of the Commission
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:
Deborah Maynard 179 Conydon Road Voluntown, CT 06384
Superintendent, Voluntown School District; and Principal, Voluntown Elementary School, Voluntown School District c/o Atty. Frederick L. Dorsey 171 Orange Street New Haven, CT 06510
__________________________ Doris V. Luetjen Acting Clerk of the Commission