City DopeNews

Open Records Complaint Filed Against CCSD

The First Amendment Foundation, a Decatur-based group that assists journalists and citizens with open records, is backing an Athens parent who filed a complaint with the state attorney general’s office after the Clarke County School District refused to release school-level COVID information.

Carrie Bishop asked CCSD for statistics on COVID cases, quarantines, isolations, hospitalizations and deaths related to the school district, both on and off campuses and broken down by school. Officials pointed her to districtwide figures posted on the CCSD website but declined to provide school-level figures, arguing that doing so could violate privacy laws because “cell sizes” are so small that individuals could be identified. 

A lawyer for the district hit reply-all and wrote, “Let’s send her the guidance in three days and move on. I’d recommend not responding to this email right now.” Three days is the maximum time under state law that government agencies have to respond to open records requests, but intentional delay violates the Georgia Open Records Act, according to the First Amendment Foundation. The foundation also pointed to U.S. Department of Education guidance that school-level data about COVID absences can be released as long as individual students cannot be identified.

Another similar group, the UGA First Amendment Law Clinic, has criticized the Oconee County School District for its lack of transparency during the pandemic. Two law students told OCSD in a letter that it should be live-streaming meetings and providing an opportunity for virtual public comment, and accused the district of blocking critics on Twitter and attempting to intimidate staff members who criticized policies. OCSD started posting videos of meetings on YouTube last month.