Access to Records by Board Members
- Access of trustees to records and information
- Notes and records created by employees and board members
- Wording of resolutions dealing with personnel issues
The information provided should not be regarded as legal advice. If you have questions about a specific fact situation please contact legal counsel.
- Members of a board of education (board) have no authority to access student records or employee files unless they are specifically authorised to do so by the board. Members of the personnel committee, for example, will usually require access to the complete file of any employee whose employment situation is under review by the committee. A member of a suspension review committee will require full access to the file of the student under suspension.Trustees do not, however, have any more right than any other member of the public to look at files or records if they do not have clear board authority to do so. This applies to both local trustees and members of the board.
- Any record created in the course of employment by an employee of the board is subject to LAFOIP. This also applies to notes taken by an employee during meetings or notes taken by a trustee during a meeting that are used for board purposes. The key issue is whether or not the records are “in the possession or under the control” of the board. Notes or documents prepared by a trustee solely for the trustee’s own purposes would not be in the possession or control of the board. On the other hand, raw data from which reports are prepared by consultants or contractors would be in the control of the board since they were created solely to fulfil the contract with the board.
- Boards must pass a resolution in order to terminate a teacher and similar resolutions may be required for other employees depending on the personnel policies of the board. Before the advent of freedom of information legislation it was common practice for a board to terminate teacher and other employee contracts by resolution and to list the reasons for termination in the resolution itself. There is some concern that continuing this practice may infringe the privacy of the employee because board minutes are public documents. In many cases the minutes are published by the local media or in newsletters.The recommended alternative is to restrict the resolution to the bare fact of termination and refer to another document that contains the reasons for termination. The published minutes will not then contain the reasons for the dismissal. Publication of the name of the employee in the resolution can be avoided if the resolution simply adopts a report or recommendation of the administrative team That report would contain details of the employee name, position and reasons for termination.Because LAFOIP specifically provides that certain details of employment are not personal information it may be possible for a third party to request access to administrative reports. Legal counsel should be sought in such cases.It should be noted that the employee who is concerned has the right to access the information.
Similar actions should be taken when granting leaves to employees or dealing with any other matter that requires consideration of personal matters by the board.