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Sebring v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, Case No. CE71688, (Polk County, Iowa).

FOIA responding to requests

Administrator Contracts
Case: Sebring v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, Case No. CE71688, (Polk County, Iowa).
Date: Saturday, May 31, 2014

The following summary is not applicable in Illinois but may be of interest to school officials because of its FOIA discussion.

An Iowa school district and its officials were sued for invasion of privacy by a former superintendent, Ms. Sebring. She alleged that the school district released private emails of a sexual nature belonging to her in response to a FOIA request. The private emails contained the same search terms as the terms used for responding to the FOIA request.

The court held that the school district should not have released these private emails, and it will allow Sebring to move forward with her case. The court noted that when the school district uncovered the emails, it had evidence of her misuse of the district’s technology, which could have led to discipline. In Iowa, documents related to disciplinary matters are exempt from disclosure under its public records law.

While this opinion is not binding in Illinois, it is instructive to school officials to review their FOIA requests carefully, and if warranted with local counsel, for private information that should not be released. It also serves as a reminder to school officials to use school technology for school-related purposes only.