From The Elkhart Truth:
A: We received a tip that a local teacher was led out of school in handcuffs. The superintendent of the school district refuses to give any information other than to say there was a “situation” involving a teacher, but no one was arrested. Police confirm that no teacher was arrested, and they say any questions about the incident should be directed to the school.
I have the name of the teacher. His photo and biographical information has been removed from the school district’s website but can be viewed in a cached version.
The superintendent won’t say why the teacher’s information has been removed from the site. She also won’t say if this teacher is still employed by the school corporation.
When I called the high school and asked to speak with the teacher, the receptionist said he doesn’t work there anymore. I’ve filed a public records request to see the teacher’s personnel file. Is there anything else I can do to force the school to talk about what happened?
A: Under the Access to Public Records Act, personnel files of public employees can be kept confidential at the discretion of the agency. But there is an exception: when an employee has been disciplined to the level of termination, demotion or suspension without pay.
If that has occurred, citizens have the right to inspect and copy records in that individual’s personnel file that state the discipline or concern the factual basis for that discipline.
Since you have a name, you could ask for the records out of the personnel file that meet that criteria.
I’m trying to think of a reason why the teacher might have been taken out in handcuffs but not arrested. Was the person possibly in contempt of court and police were called to compel the teacher’s appearance?
Keep in mind that under the Access to Public Records Act, police must create a daily log or record with information about requests for assistance.
Since police were on the scene, they should have a record of the teacher’s removal from the school that is available for copying and inspection to fill requirements of IC 5-14-3-5.
So ask police to inspect the daily log information for the time frame covering the removal of the teacher from the school.
In any case, public officials don’t have to answer your questions, but they do have to supply any relevant records.
Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at email@example.com or (317) 624-4427.