Teachers can protest disclosure of information, high court rules
KENTUCKY — Teachers have the right to protest the disclosure of potentially embarrassing information about them under the personal privacy exemption to the Open Records Act, the Supreme Court ruled in late March.
Although the Open Records Act is known for promoting disclosure through its extensive remedy provisions for denial of access, the General Assembly “left the door ajar” for those seeking to prevent disclosure by enforcing the exclusions in court, the court said.
The high court returned the case to the Court of Appeals, which had ruled in December 1993 that only the legal custodian of the records, not a third party, has the discretion to decide whether to withhold or disclose information under the Open Records Act.
The case stems from an October 1992 request to the Jefferson County Board of Education by a Courier-Journal reporter for employment histories and disciplinary actions taken against seven teachers.
The teachers asked the board to withhold the records, based on privacy considerations. When the board refused, the teachers sued the board and the newspaper in circuit court in Louisville and lost.
One teacher, Phillip L. Ritz, was trying to prevent the release of documents showing that he had picked up one of his high school students at a shopping center and taken her to his house, where her parents allegedly later found her in his bed, the court of appeals opinion said.
(Beckham v. Board of Education of Jefferson Co.; Media Counsel: Jon Fleischaker, Louisville)