Paulding County School District Now Trying To Duck FOIA Requests

from the teaching-moments dept

You will recall the brief clusterfuck that occurred earlier this month in Georgia's Paulding County. The school district there, which opened back up for in-person classes while making wearing a mask completely optional, also decided to suspend two students who took and posted pictures of crowded hallways filled with maskless students. While the district dressed these suspensions up as consequences for using a smartphone on school grounds, the school's administration gave the game away by informing all students that they would be disciplined for any criticism by students on social media in general. That, as we pointed out, is a blatant First Amendment violation.

Once the blow-back really got going, the school district rescinded the suspensions. In the days following, students and teachers at the school began falling ill and testing positive for COVID-19. It got bad enough that the school decided to shut down. With so much media attention, it was a matter of who was going to get the FOIA requests in for documents on what led to the suspensions first.

Vice put a request in. However, because this district can't seem to stop punching itself in the gut, the school district is attempting to duck the FOIA requests entirely. Not through redactions. It just isn't going to give up any internal documents at all, even as it acknowledges it has documents in hand.

"The District is in possession of responsive documents," the response, signed by W. Thomas Cable in their role as the attorney for the Paulding County School District, reads. "However, pursuant to Georgia law, the following categories of information have not been produced, via redaction or removal, to the extent a statutory exclusion is directly applicable."

The public records request response also says the records are "specifically required by the federal government to be kept confidential." School districts often attempt to reject freedom of information requests on the grounds of student privacy, but districts and individual schools should be able to produce redacted records that protect privacy while still giving information about how specific decisions were made behind the scenes.

Without question, the district has the ability to disclose the documents requested without violating any student or faculty privacy. What this is instead is a fairly brazen attempt to refuse a records request that will almost certainly be embarrassing for the district. Due to this, the refusal has gotten the attention of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, which doesn't sound like the kind of group that is going to simply let this go.

The cover up is always worse than the crime, as they say. However bad those records would have made Paulding County School District look, it's now going to look all the worse with this attempt to bury the truth, should those documents eventually come out. And, given the speed with which the district retreated from the suspensions when challenged, you have to imagine a little bit of public pressure is all it's going to take here as well.

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Filed Under: covid-19, foia, georgia, north paulding high school, pandemic, paulding county, transparency

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  • icon
    hij (profile), 19 Aug 2020 @ 7:03pm

    Cover thy buttocks

    Arrogant administrators would rather throw money away on lawyers rather than provide a more effective educational experience. The top of the bureaucracy is there to serve itself and not the people who pay the bills. Meanwhile the teachers are left to either try and heal from the coronavirus or cope with the sudden shift to an online learning system they were not trained to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 19 Aug 2020 @ 9:36pm

    not surprising

    not in the slightest.

    my local district (an hour south of Paulding) made a big announcement about how only 3 tested positive across the whole district, and that one of those was already quarentined since school opened on monday.

    What they tried to slip past, was that those were just the figures 'today' (meaning since tuesday school got out) and they hadn't released figures before that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jasper Beardsley, 20 Aug 2020 @ 1:33am

    Trying to dodge FOIA requests?

    "That's a Paudlin'."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 3:08am


    Inbreeding. Nepotism. Racism.

    Welcome to The South™.


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 8:58am

    Handling it badly from the start means everything to the end will be handled badly too, all the while playing the victim.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2020 @ 9:19am

    Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 12:52pm

    I love the news.

    Its fun listening and trying to decide what is a coverup, Fake, Abusive or Just idiotic.
    This is on the subject of trump and the availability of Masks.
    From the idea's that hospitals have/have not, enough masks.
    That IF you open the schools will you HAVE/Have not enough masks.
    How many work places, esp in Large business Cubicles and Closed environments in large buildings, will need Multiple masks in a day..

    I would love a T-Shirt with:
    1 sick person
    Room of 30+ people..
    What do you think is
    coming home from school?

    If you really want the reality of all this.
    Its that the Virus ISNT going away.
    Lets get over it. Let things happen, and watch the Hospitals fail, Gloriously. The Problem the USA and other have is Corp based Health care. And 1 sick person could end up with Loosing everything they have for 1 week in the hospital. Delying the infection, CAN help the hospitals deal witht he problem, but AT THE TOP, we have a bunch of idiots, that dont give a F' about anyone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 1:29pm

    When an institution tries to block FOIA... doubly demonstrates the need for ironclad public FOIA access.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 21 Aug 2020 @ 12:46am

      Re: When an institution tries to block FOIA...

      ITs that we all, get tired of the BS.
      WE want to know whats happening, because WE are supposed to be in control of our gov.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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