School district can keep controversial test confidential
IOWA–Under an exemption to the Iowa Public Records Act, a school district may keep confidential a mandatory test that evaluates 11th graders, the Supreme Court of Iowa ruled in mid-September. Although the court granted a school board member the right to see the examination, it ruled that she cannot copy, disseminate or publish its contents.
In March 1992, school board member Carolyn Gabrilson saw and strenuously objected to a field-tested version of an aptitude test created by the Davenport Community School District to assess the capabilities of all juniors in high schools. She discussed the tests on a radio talk show and handed out 300 copies to news media and others. She also requested copies of the test as it was to be administered in the fall.
The school district claimed it could withhold the tests under an exemption to the Iowa Public Records Act for examinations where disclosure could interfere with accomplishing the objectives for which the tests are administered.
Gabrilson sued for the tests in October 1992, both as a member of the public and as a member of the school board. In March 1995 the District Court in Davenport ruled that the tests were confidential and ordered Gabrilson not to make further disclosures.
The Supreme Court found that the test is exempt from public disclosure but that Gabrilson, as a school board member, is entitled to see it. However, she could not copy or disseminate the test, the state’s high court said. (Gabrilson v. Flynn; Attorney: Jeffrey Bittner, Davenport)