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Ala. judge weighs releasing teacher's personnel file

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  1. Freedom of Information
Dale County Circuit Judge P.B. McLauchlin may be the first judge in the state of Alabama to determine whether a…

Dale County Circuit Judge P.B. McLauchlin may be the first judge in the state of Alabama to determine whether a teacher’s personnel file should be made open to the public.

The Dothan Eagle submitted two requests to the Ozark City Schools for records pertaining to disciplinary action against middle school teacher Melinda Fenn. Last year, Fenn was given 25 days of unpaid leave for exposing a student’s medical disability to other students.

In response to the newspaper’s requests, Fenn’s attorney filed a motion to seal all the records in Fenn’s personnel file, including documents relating to the incident.

A 1995 state attorney general’s opinion stated that disciplinary information was a matter of public information.  However, Fenn’s attorney, Stuart Smith, argues that the Code of Alabama restricts the release of a teacher’s personnel file to law enforcement, hearing officers or state departments.

Judge McLauchlin said that he would rule shortly on whether to seal the documents.