Redlands Unified School District

By Greg Cappis, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 10/04/14, 5:44 PM PDT |

A judge has ordered the Redlands Unified School District to alter its public record policies, which, he ruled, violate the California Public Records Act.

San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Bryan Foster told the district to quit charging fees for members of the public to view records ­— including those requiring redactions — and to charge no more than 10-cents per page for copies of public records. The district had been charging a 25-cents-per-page copying fee for nonstudent records.

Foster issued a written ruling Monday because this civil case may set the precedent for whether state agencies can charge copying fees before allowing the public to inspect a public record.

“I’m going to give you a written decision because it is a case of first impression,” Foster said, according to transcripts of a Sept. 12 hearing.

Foster’s ruling settled a civil suit brought against the district 10 months ago by Maia Pawooskar, mother of a special education student.

But the school district — which “intends to to fully comply with all aspects of the order” — may appeal the decision. They have 60 days to file an appeal.

“We’re reviewing the decision,” said the school district’s lawyer John Dietrich a partner at Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, in an interview Friday. “We’re considering the basis for the decision, and we’re considering whether to appeal the decision.”

Events leading up to the civil suit began March 27, 2013, when Pawooskar submitted a public records request for the billing records of lawyers hired by the district to represent RUSD in an administrative hearing against Pawooskar’s son, a teenage student with autism.

She wanted to see if the district was spending more money to prosecute her son — after she pulled him out of school — than provide the services she was seeking.

The district said they didn’t have the records, so Pawooskar expanded her request for the records of all lawyers hired on behalf of the district, which generated 11,180 pages of the documents. Pawooskar could receive copies at 25-cents per page, or $2,795.

To avoid the high cost, she asked to inspect the records so she could then choose which pages she wanted copied.

The documents contained sensitive information, the district said, and would need to be redacted before she could inspect them. Copies would need to be made to perform the redactions, so the district attempted to charge Pawooskar before Pawooskar could view them.

Judge Foster ruled charging the public before they get a chance to inspect public records is out of step with state law.

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