Herald-Tribune by Elizabeth Djinis
June 16, 2018
District cites student privacy laws for cost of accessing emails
In July 2016, Sarasota paralegal Michael Barfield made what seemed to be a standard public records request of the Sarasota County School District. Barfield asked the district for all emails containing the word “Zucker” over a four-month period, presumably referring to the last name of School Board member Caroline Zucker.
Three days later, the district responded: Barfield could have the records, but his request would cost him about $1,000 based on the staff time required to find them and redact, or black out, sensitive information.
Barfield then amended his request, asking only for emails that mentioned “Zucker” in the body of the message, rather than in the “To” or “CC” line. He was given a revised charge of more than $700, he said.
After a stretch of summer vacation, Barfield sent the school district a check for the full amount in October 2016, which the district acknowledged it received.
But after almost four months, Barfield still had not received the emails.
This back-and-forth was far from unusual for Barfield, who is known for his long-running — and often controversial — campaign to force local governments to comply with the state’s public records laws. But the delay was “ridiculous,” Barfield said.
So, with no response, he sued the district in early February 2017 for “refusing to perform its statutory duty to make public records in its possession available for inspection and copying,” according to legal documents.