Missouri Attorney General files lawsuit against Rockwood School District for alleged Sunshine Law violations

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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against the Rockwood School District for alleged Sunshine Law violations.

On November 19, 2021, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office sent three Sunshine Law requests to the Rockwood School District seeking public records relating to the Rockwood School District’s decision to publish the FBI’s link to report parents on its website following U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s memo that designated concerned parents as “domestic terrorists.”

“My Office filed a lawsuit against the Rockwood School District for violating the Sunshine Law. We requested records relating to the Rockwood School District’s decision to post the FBI’s tip line on their website following the Biden Administration’s memo designating concerned parents as ‘domestic terrorists,’” said Attorney General Schmitt. “The Rockwood School District has not produced the records requested by my Office, and instead demanded an upfront payment with improperly assessed copying fees – that’s why I’m taking them to court. Parents and students of the Rockwood School District deserve to see these public records, and I will keep fighting for transparency in Missouri’s schools.”

The Attorney General’s Office requested three types of records, all of which were electronic communications only:

  • Emails between board members and the FBI or DOJ
  • Emails relating to parents that had been, or were being considered to be, reported to the FBI
  • Emails related to how the decision was made to post a link to the FBI tip line on the district’s website.

In response to the Attorney General’s request, the school district demanded up-front payment of fees and stated that processing the Attorney General’s request, “would require ‘considerable time and expense,’ because the district would have to ‘review and compile large amounts of communication.’”

The lawsuit continues, “The district also stated that it was requesting a ‘cost deposit’ in order to ‘prepare copies’ of requested records even though all records requested were electronic in nature and do not require copying…. The district further stated that even though it would have responsive records available on or before December 14, 2021, it would only ‘proceed with assembling the documents’ responsive to the AGO’s request ‘once it receives payment of the fees’ it demanded in its prior correspondence.”

The school district did not produce records by December 14, 2021, and has yet to produce the records requested. The school district has also not modified its fee demand, nor has it notified the Attorney General’s Office of a need for additional time.

The lawsuit incorporates four counts and alleges that requesting up-front fees for the production of public records and improperly assessing copying fees for electronic records, among other counts, violates the Sunshine Law.

This marks the ninth lawsuit over Sunshine Law violations that Attorney General Schmitt has filed since becoming attorney general, which is more than any other attorney general in recent history.

The Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday filed suit against the Missouri School Boards’ Association for failing to respond to a Sunshine Law request.

The full petition can be found here.

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