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August 13, 2010

Freedom of information requests related to disciplinary actions

Freedom of information requests related to disciplinary actions
Western Suffolk BOCES v Bay Shore UFSD, 250 A.D.2d 772

After the Bay Shore Union Free School District refused to honor Western Suffolk BOCES’ Freedom of Information [Section 87, Public Officers Law] request for the employment history of a teacher, BOCES won an order in State Supreme Court directing the District to provide it with certain documents, including some, but not all, material demanded by BOCES. Apparently some of the material demanded concerned disciplinary matters while other papers dealt with a “stipulation of settlement.”

The district, the teacher and BOCES all appealed. Although the district subsequently withdrew its appeal, the teacher continued his objection to the release of the material in the “sealed record” while BOCES pressed for those documents in the “sealed record on appeal” that the Supreme Court declined to have the district provide.

The Appellate Division modified the lower court’s order. It said that BOCES could not have certain pages in the “sealed record” that the lower court had ordered released and with respect to some other pages, the names of parents and students had to be redacted [obliterated] from the documents before BOCES could have them.

Specifically, the Appellate Division said that the lower court should not have directed the release of pages in the “sealed record” which recite or refer to unproven disciplinary charges. In contrast, the Appellate Division said that while BOCES was entitled to a copy of the “stipulation of settlement,” the names of the students and their parents mentioned in the stipulation should not be disclosed to BOCES.

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New York Public Personnel Law Blog Editor Harvey Randall served as Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service; Director of Personnel, SUNY Central Administration; Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material posted to this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor NYPPL and, or, its staff and contributors are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is urged to seek such advice from a knowledgeable professional.
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