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Court orders school district to release bus drivers' names

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         WISCONSIN         Freedom of Information         Nov 16, 2001    

Court orders school district to release bus drivers’ names

  • An appellate court ordered that the Milwaukee Public School District can release drivers’ information only after they have been informed and had time to pursue legal action.

The First District Court of Appeals in Milwaukee ruled on Nov. 13 that the Milwaukee Public School District should release the names and driving records of 1,400 drivers once the drivers were noticed and given the chance to object.

The appellate court decision upheld an earlier trial court ruling that said the drivers’ names and license numbers should be released because the public’s right to know outweighed the privacy concerns of keeping the information secret.

Bus companies that were trying to keep the names of their drivers from being released argued that the information should be kept private because the drivers would “suffer an immediate and irreparable invasion of privacy and reputational harm” and “suffer a risk to their lives and safety.”

In a 2-1 decision, the appellate court rejected their claim.

“The released information is not itself embarrassing, nor is it likely to lead to others to discover the personal histories of the bus drivers,” Judge Patricia Curley wrote.

The court also said the school district did not need to give a detailed account of why the driver information should be released because nothing in the state law requires them to do so.

The appellate court closely followed a 1996 state Supreme court holding that public employee records are “open to the public unless there is an overriding public interest in keeping them confidential.” The court also held that people have the right to be notified before public documents naming them are released and have an opportunity to sue to stop the release.

According to the Associated Press, the bus drivers’ have now filed 801 objections to release of the records. The trial court ruled that six of the drivers had legitimate reasons for keeping their information private, but all other records should be released.

(Atlas Transit Inc. v. Korte) HP

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