Public schools: What do you have a right to know?

Taxpayers have the right to ask questions and look into matters happening inside their schools.

Knowing how to access information, as well as what information is available, are keys to conducting successful research.

Recent Freedom of Information requests sent to Norwich and Unadilla Valley School districts were prime examples of what’s accessible, and not accessible, when it relates to school documents.

The schools’ responses, received within the required time limit several days after the requests were made, were similiar. The requests asked for access to all records within the past year that pertained to formal complaints filed against district employees – including staff, teachers and administration.

Unadilla Valley Schools Superintendent Robert Mackey stated via letter, “We have no instances of written sexual and/or criminal complaints that have been filed in the past year.”

Mackey did acknowledge that, “There have been two verbal complaints that are currently under investigation. Therefore, any such documentation regarding the investigation can not currently be FOILed.”

Although no further information can be gathered from administration regarding the specifics of the instances mentioned, the FOIL did show that there are matters being looked into.

Norwich City Schools Deputy Superintendent Margaret Boice said very few FOIL requests are received each year and certain types of issues are not open to anyone. “No one can FOIL personnel issues,” she said. “It is not public information.”

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