State Official Says Indiana School Corporation Violated Law

An east central Indiana school corporation has drawn a rebuke from Indiana Public Access Counselor Karen Davis for altering and redacting a state document.In October, the superintendent of the Charles A. Beard (CAB) School Corporation provided a copy of a state fire marshal’s Notice of Violations Order to The Banner. The document noted a single violation from a fire prevention inspection done before a new area high school opened.

 

State Official Says Indiana School Corporation Violated Law

KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. (November 2004) — An east central Indiana school corporation has drawn a rebuke from Indiana Public Access Counselor Karen Davis for altering and redacting a state document.

In October, the superintendent of the Charles A. Beard (CAB) School Corporation provided a copy of a state fire marshal’s Notice of Violations Order to The Banner. The document noted a single violation from a fire prevention inspection done before a new area high school opened.

Shortly after receiving the school corporation’s response, The Banner submitted a similar record request to the state fire marshal’s office. The state’s copy of the August 2003 Notice of Violations Order, however, was eight pages and listed 17 violations noted during an inspection.

When The Banner compared the documents obtained from the state fire marshal’s office and the school corporation, it became clear that the school corporation had substantially altered the original Notice of Violations Order before providing a copy to the paper. (see records linked here)

For example, the district had removed references to 16 of the 17 violations cited by the state.

“In my opinion … CAB violated the Access to Public Records Act by disclosing a redacted version of a public record without stating the basis for withholding the remainder of the original record, or without informing The Banner that the record was a redacted record in the first instance.”

She said the redaction, or omission, of portions of the original Notice of Violations Order by the school corporation “was substantial, and appears to have been done in such a way as to create an impression that it was the complete, entire record.”

CAB Superintendent Dr. Hal Jester declined to respond to The Banner’s questions about who actually altered the document, why it was done and whether such alteration is a common practice.

Instead, he chose to issue a brief letter to the paper in which he characterized the school corporation’s actions as a “misinterpretation” of the Access to Public Records Act.

“The School Corporation receives numerous requests for public records each year,” he wrote. “It has always made a good faith effort to respond to such requests and will continue to do so.”

(Story submitted by Jeff Eakins, The (Knightstown) Banner.)