At a recent meeting of the Nutmeg Board of Education, “security matters” was on the Board agenda. When the Board reached that item, Mrs. Superintendent told the Board that she has some ideas for improving school security, and she suggested that the Board go into executive session for the purpose of holding that discussion. Local reporter Nancy Newshound from the Nutmeg Bugle stood up and demanded to be recognized. Mr. Chairperson sighed and said, “Go ahead Nancy. What’s your problem now?”
“If the Board goes into executive session, I will file a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission! Mrs. Superintendent didn’t mention a specific plan, and you can’t just go into executive session to shoot the breeze about school security. School security affects everyone, and the public has a right to know what you are talking about.”
Noah Tall, a local curmudgeon who is free with his opinions, chimed in. “When I was in the service, I learned a lot about security. If you are smart, you will let me be part of the executive session discussion.”
Mr. Chairperson interrupted Noah and Nancy. “Look, you two. When you get yourself elected to the Nutmeg Board of Education, you will have a say in how we operate. Until then, we thank you for your comments and ask that you leave now so that the Board can have its executive session.”
Once the room was cleared, Mrs. Superintendent told the Board that she has been talking with the Police Chief, and they wanted jointly to suggest that the district hire another SRO to enhance security at Nutmeg Memorial High School. The Board members debated this recommendation, and after some discussion, they authorized Mrs. Superintendent to enter into an agreement with the Nutmeg Police Department providing that the Chief could hire another SRO and send the bill to the Board. With that, the Board reconvened in open session and adjourned the meeting.
Nancy carried through on her threat, and the next day she filed a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission. Noah, however, did Nancy one better. Noah made an FOI request for the blueprints of Nutmeg Memorial High School. He explained that he was concerned about some “soft” access points, and that he needs the blueprints to make his suggestions on improving safety at Nutmeg Memorial High School. With his request, he noted that each passing day exposes the students to potential harm, and Noah informed Mrs. Superintendent that he would stop by in the morning to pick up the blueprints.
Mrs. Superintendent promptly responded to Noah by email to say that she was not interested in his suggestions and that she would not be making the blueprints available. However, Noah did not take “no” for an answer, and he too filed an FOIA complaint. Citing the provision in the FOIA that provides that members of the public should have “prompt” access to public records during normal business hours, Noah asked the Commission to find the Nutmeg Board of Education in violation of the law.
Does either Nancy or Noah have a valid complaint here? Continue Reading