A State Judge Gets It Wrong

Concerned with what her child might be taught were that child to take a particular course in Michigan’s Rochester Community School District, a mother asked the District for information related to that course—lesson plans, course curriculum, readings to be assigned, and the like. Things led to things, and the mother formalized her request as a FOIA request under Michigan’s FOIA law. More things led to more things, and the matter wound up in Michigan Circuit Judge James Cunningham’s court, with the mother asking the course instructor, in addition to the District, be required to deliver the requested information, and the District denying having the requested information and further denying requiring its instructors to develop anything like that information.

Cunningham proceeded to rule against the mother.

He quoted Michigan’s FOIA law [emphasis in the opinion]:

“Public body” is defined in MCL 15.232(h)

(iii) A city, county, township, township, village, intercounty, intercity, or regional governing body, council, school district, special district, or municipal corporation, ….

Cunningham then proceeded to write that since Michigan’s law listed school districts as bound by State FOIA requirements, but it didn’t list school district employees, those employees—teachers in the present case—are not bound by State FOIA requirements.

This is a cynical interpretation. A “school district” does not exist without the personnel that populate it: its employees, from superintendent on down through school principals and teachers, to janitors and bus drivers.

Of course the Rochester school district’s teachers are subject to a FOIA request under Michigan law.

This is a…silly…ruling that ought to be overturned on appeal, which the mother intends to bring.

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