Are 372 replacement teachers hired during a strike by public-school educators entitled to secrecy due to fears they could be harassed or harmed if their names became known?
That’s the central issue in a public-records case before the Ohio Supreme Court.
The Strongsville school district has refused to release records identifying teachers hired last year to replace striking classroom instructors, saying it would violate their constitutional right to privacy. School officials worry the replacement teachers could be targets for retaliation as evidenced by some ugly incidents during the strike in which no one was harmed.
The Eighth District Court of Appeals in Cuyahoga County later ruled that records identifying the replacement teachers were public and ordered them released. Strongsville school officials thenappealed that ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court.
In a joint friend-of-the-court filing this week, the Ohio Coalition for Open Government and the Ohio Employment Lawyers Association argued that the replacement teachers should not receive the same privacy protections afforded some police officers threatened by violent felons.
Parents should have the right to learn who is teaching their children and explore their backgrounds and teaching credentials, the filing argues.
“Such a vast expansion of the ‘privacy’ exemption … would deal a crushing blow to Ohioans’ right to access information pertinent to issues of public importance …,” wrote lawyers Fred Gittes and David Marburger.
“The correct balance here is clear: The interest of parents in access to information affecting the safety and education of their children is compelling enough to overcome any interest of public school employees in concealing their identities from the public.”
(Disclosure: I am a trustee of the Ohio Coalition for Open Government.)