Spahr v. Board of Education, Norwalk Public Schools
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 20 U.S.C. §1232g, prohibits public schools that receive federal funding from disclosing information concerning a student that would personally identify that student, without the appropriate consent. M. Jeffry Spahr appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the Board of Education of the Norwalk Public Schools violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to comply with his Aug. 24th and Aug. 25th,, 2011 request to inspect records. The FOIC found that Spahr was assessing the Norwalk Public School's special education program and that certain critical records were required before the 2011 school year began. The respondent did not reply until a Nov. 3, 2011 email informing Spahr that responsive records were compiled and requested prepayment for 200 copies. Spahr ultimately inspected records in Feb. 2012 but was not satisfied with the compliance. Although the respondent claimed it was unintentional, the FOIC found that the respondent did not comply with a request for information and personnel files for paraprofessionals assigned to a certain elementary school in violation of the disclosure provisions of C.G.S. §1-210(a). Other requested records were found not to exist. Requested records of settlement or other agreements for students attending or who have attended the Eagle Hill Southport School with or without Norwalk Public School assistance were reviewed in camera. Certain information in those records constituted "personally identifiable information" under 34 C.F.R. 99.3, as the respondent claimed. The records were "educational records" under 20 U.S.C. §1232g(a)(4)(A). But, that specific information could be redacted and the records would not personally identify any student. The respondent violated C.G.S. §1-210(a) and §1-212(a) by failing to disclose a redacted copy of the in camera records. Further, the respondent unduly delayed compliance and violated the promptness provisions of C.G.S. §1-210(a). No evidence justified why it took 71 days to compile the responsive records. The respondent was directed to provide certain records free of charge and to provide redacted copies of other records and to strictly comply, henceforth, with the promptness provisions of the FOIA.