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School Districts Must Provide Records

In a ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals handed down on March 31, 2011 the Congress School District, located in Yavapai County, has been ordered to supply records sought by four local residents.

The Congress School District had rejected the records requests by the four residents claiming that it was “vexatious,” due to the number of previous requests for records by the individuals.

school%20crossing-1.jpgThe ruling by the Court of Appeals stated that the school district did not provide evidence to prove the requests unreasonable and that the records are available to the public by law. The ruling also stated that the public has a right to information regarding the district and how it conducts business. Requests for, and access to, this information does not constitute a public nuisance.

There were a total of 55 requests for records by the four residents for information during the 2008-2009 school year. There were also four complaints filed that year with the Arizona Ombudsman’s Office, the agency in charge of complaint review, due to lack of response to the requests. The residents filed an additional 13 information requests during the 2009-2010 school year.

The response by the school district to the repeated requests for information was to sue in an effort to block any future records requests, stating that they are a “public nuisance, an abuse of laws regarding public records and harassment.” No mention was made, however, that any of the previous requests were improper or illegitimate.

In the ruling, the judge wrote that the officials from the Congress School District did not provide proof of any request made for non-public records.

Citing the arguments in the suit by the school district as ‘preemptive action,’ the judge stated that it was inappropriate but that the school district was welcome to seek legal action in the future to bar any requests that are outside the bounds of public records law.

The Congress School District has also been ordered to pay the legal expenses incurred by the individuals due to the court proceedings.