C.J. Caramella for reason.com
January 2018 Issue
Oregon resident Kim Sordyl had a hunch. The outspoken education activist thought Portland Public Schools might be using lengthy and expensive paid leaves to avoid firing problem employees. So she filed a public records request, looking for data to back up her suspicion.
Instead of forking over the info—even after the county district attorney declared it part of the public record—the district sued Sordyl, along with a reporter who’d requested similar information, asking a judge to review the case in April.
Being named in a lawsuit for filing a public records request was “just more of the same” from a school system that “goes to great lengths to protect themselves and administrators at the expense of students, staff, and taxpayers,” Sordyl says. But transparency advocates argue cases like hers are part of a disturbing trend in recent years of local governments filing suits against citizens to keep their doings secret.
In September, the Associated Press detailed several such cases. In one, an education watchdog in Louisiana was sued for seeking records about student performance. In another, college journalists in Kentucky requesting records about sexual misconduct investigations of university employees found themselves named in a suit. [READ MORE]