|Submitted||Dec. 19, 2014|
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When will the State of Rhode Island finally hold its agencies and municipalities accountable for non-compliance with the Access to Public Records Act, which legislation is nearly two years old?
For background, see "ACCESS/RI - An Audit of Compliance with the Rhode Island Public Records Act," dated September 15, 2014 and reported by MuckRock.
The Audit showed the Town of Portsmouth's School Department has been in violation of the law for the last two years, with regards to compliance and the Access to Public Records Act ("APRA").
Recently, the Town of Portsmouth was under investigation by the Attorney General's Office for an APRA violation involving the Police Union.
On December 8, 2014, the Attorney General's Office found in favor of the Police Union. (See Portsmouth Patch article dated December 11, 2014 entitled "Portsmouth Violated Public Records Law Responding to Police Union, AG rules -- Another APRA violation for Portsmouth...")
This seems to be a situation where one hand doesn't know what the other is doing. The Town or its School Department does not seem to be aware of the logistics involving the 2012 APRA reform or even care to come into compliance with the law.
The Town's School Department has violated the same APRA Act four times, and continues to do so, all while the Town was under investigation for an APRA violation with the AG's Office.
My minor child has been protected under Section 504 of the Rehabilitative Act of 1973 since April 28, 2014, with two formal reviews since.
My first request for a release of documents to the School was on October 16, 2014. To follow up on the Section 504 Review Meeting on October 14, 2014, I met further with the Principal.
In that meeting, I notified the Principal of HIPPA violations involving the School Nurse, as reported to me by my child's doctor. I informed him of our immediate request for any and all medical records, emails, notes, logs, etc., and more specifically, anything that involved the School Nurse and our child. In addition, a written notice of the violation was sent to the School Nurse, with a copy to the Principal and the School Department.
In response to my request, on October 24, 2014, I received a partial release of documents from the School. That same day, I informed the Principal by email that the release was incomplete to the request made, which was in violation of the law. I received no response.
That same day, as outlined under the Access to Public Records Act, we made an additional request using the "Portsmouth School Department Request Form for Records Under the Access to Public Records Act," and hand-delivered it to the School Department. This request was denied, in violation of the law.
The School Department replied on October 29, 2014:
"This letter is in response to your recent request for information under the Access to Public Records Act, dated October 24, 2014.
"Please be advised the information you requested is not public information. All student information is private; therefore, cannot be requested under the Access to Public Records Act.
"You may contact your child's school directly and request to review your child's information they have in file."
In response, on November 4, 2014, I wrote the Principal with another request for a complete release of documents.
A short time after sending the request, I received a call from the Guidance Counselor, requesting medical test results of my child. In addition, she informed me that the School had misplaced the doctor's note I had forwarded on October 22, 2014 and requested that I immediately fax it to the School, which I did.
After repeated attempts to get the School to comply with the 504 Plan dated October 14, 2014, on November 7, 2014 at 9:55 a.m., I wrote the School that they were not in compliance with the 504 Plan and outlined the grievances. I received no response.
In a letter dated November 7, 2014, but received by us on November 12, 2014, the School makes again a partial document release, to follow up on my request of November4, 2014. In addition, the School once again bullies, under cover of the Rehabilitative Act of 1973.
Early the same afternoon, I received a call from the School Department's legal counsel in response to my document request. In that call, the School Department's legal counsel first stated that the Principal had given all the documents that the School had. I assured her that he had not.
At which point, she asks what it is that I am looking for and states that she will get it for me. I asked her to please reference the communications we sent to the School and that I was on my way out to a medical appointment.
She then said she did not have all the communications and was responding to my most recent letter and thought her call could resolve this quickly. She then, once again, asked me what I was looking for.
She became complaisant that I would not disclose what it was that I was looking for. She then told me that this didn't have to be this difficult, and I could have just told her what I wanted.
I reminded her that I had to get to an appointment.
She then asked for me to tell her what documents had been turned over so far, so she can see what hadn't been. In response, I informed her that she could obtain such a list from the School.
I then asked why was it that she was requesting from me information on what is missing and what had been released thus far? In addition, I stated that if, in fact, the School had made a complete release, as she had claimed, then to please have the Principal sign an Affidavit stating full disclosure was made. She said she would do that and asked if that would satisfy the request.
After more unpleasantries, I informed her that had she done her due diligence, there wouldn't have ever been the need for her to call me. She replied that she wanted to know what we were looking for. I reminded her of the expression "soup to nuts" and told her that's what we are seeking. By this time, she was further displeased, and I forced to conclude the call before things became more heightened and to get to my appointment on time.
In response, the School Principal had a letter dated November 19, 2014 hand-delivered the evening of November 18, 2014 to our residence.
It was not a complete document release or an Affidavit signed by the Principal. It was yet another letter to bully, under cover of the Rehabilitative Act of 1973.
Records show the more I pushed for a complete release of my child's records, the more the School/School Department pushed back with threats, under cover of the Rehabilitative Act of 1973.
To this date, we have yet to receive a complete document release, as provided for under the law, and the School/School Department continues to bully, under cover of the Rehabilitative Act of 1973, for which they have no legal standing.
We await word from the Attorney General's Office.
Another Violation -- See http://www.riag.ri.gov/documents/om/FaerbervPortsmouthSchoolCmte.pdf
Another Violation -- See http://www.riag.ri.gov/documents/opengov/IBPO302vPortsmouth.pdf
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