two kids standing side by side wearing masks

UMLC demands full and timely response to public school data request

On October 12, UMLC served Independent School District 11 with a lawsuit demanding a full and timely response to a request for data served on August 24. The plaintiff is UMLC’s own James Dickey, a taxpayer and resident of ISD 11. You can find a copy of the Amended Complaint here.

On August 23, 2021, the ISD 11 School Board met to discuss whether to require masks on students in the District. Before the meeting, parents and taxpayers submitted written comments to the School Board about whether students should be masked. At the August 23 meeting, the School Board took an hour of oral comments from parents. Then, suddenly, the School Board whipped out a never-before-seen presentation and voted on it, without any comment on the specific plan.

The Board’s actions led Dickey to question the genesis of this presentation and what kind of input the Board received prior to the meeting. Thus, on August 24, Dickey served a public data request. The request seeks the drafts and emails related to the presentation; communications from the Minnesota School Board Association and Education Minnesota; and emails among District employees discussing masking. Dickey limited the searches to 2 weeks or 2 months of time and provided keywords like “mask” to make the District’s job easier.

Despite this targeted request, ISD 11 ignored Dickey’s request for a week and then only acknowledged receipt on August 31 because Dickey requested acknowledgement. After that, ISD 11 failed to provide any information about how it was processing the request, so UMLC filed suit on Dickey’s behalf. The day after UMLC filed suit, ISD 11 finally provided a half-hearted response that included almost no data.

This lawsuit comes as parents across Minnesota are frustrated with School Districts’ lack of responsiveness to their public data requests. Dickey and others believe School Districts must respond to data requests in a timely manner to ensure accountability. ISD 11 has not done that. In other contexts, the Data Practices Office has issued opinions indicating that more voluminous requests should be completed within 35 days, and for some, as soon as 13 working days after receipt.

If you agree with UMLC’s efforts to hold School Districts accountable to their taxpayers, please consider a tax-exempt and confidential donation today.

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