California's Second Appellate District Court ruled today that parents can request records involving a school district's investigation and reprimand of one of its teacher under the California Public Records Act (CPRA).
In the case, Marken v. Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, the teacher, Ari Marken, attempted to enjoin the release of the records, arguing that the disclosure of his personnel records was not authorized under the CPRA and would violate his constitutional and statutory rights of privacy.
A Santa Monica High School parent contacted the school in 2008, expressing concern that Marken had sexually harassed her daughter. "The district's sexual harassment policy includes everything from making inappropriate jokes or drawings to teasing and touching someone's clothes in a sexual way, as well as making unwanted sexual advances," according to the Santa Monica Daily Press.
It is unclear what the accusations against Marken involved, but Marken admitted some of the alleged conduct, explained the context, and denied other conduct.
The school district investigated the incident. Because the complaining parent did not want the student to be interviewed about the matter, the district released a report based on an incomplete investigation, finding that certain conduct "more likely than not did occur." The district issued Marken a "written reprimand following accusations of sexual harassment of a student."
In 2010, Michael Chwe, a parent with two children at the school, filed a CPRA request with the superintendent's office in an attempt to learn more about the investigation involving Marken. Before the district released the documents, Marken filed a motion to block the release.
Last year, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ruth Kwan denied Marken's motion preliminary injunction, and ordered the district to hand over the records. Today, the Second Appellate District affirmed that decision.
Marken's attorney expressed concern after the lower court ruled in the matter last year that releasing public employees' personnel records under the CPRA could jeopardize government employees' willingness to cooperate in investigations, according to the Daily Press. Do you think the Second Appellate District reached the right decision?
- Marken v. Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (California Courts)
- Office of the Inspector Gen. v. Superior Court (FindLaw's California Case Law blog)
- Supreme Court of U.S. to Rule on Text Message Privacy (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life)