Education

Fayette school district violated state Open Records Act on MLK Academy records, AG says.

Fayette County Public Schools violated Kentucky’s Open Records Act by not providing a hard copy of records that a Lexington attorney requested about numbers of black and disabled students at a district alternative school, state Attorney General Andy Beshear said in a ruling released Monday.

Fayette County Public Schools’ spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said district officials respect the Sept. 26 ruling and will work to make sure the problem doesn’t occur again.

In June, Lexington attorney Edward E. Dove submitted an open records request to the school district seeking information relating to the Martin Luther King Jr. Academy for Excellence, an alternative program for middle and high school students whose conduct prevents them from succeeding in their regular school.

Dove, whose practice includes representing students and their families in education law cases against the school district, requested in a June 4 letter that the school district provide the overall number of students at the school for the last five years and the numbers of black and disabled students at the school for the last five years. He asked for the number of students who had completed the necessary “academic hours” set by the Kentucky Department of Education to graduate in the last five years and the number of black and disabled students who had done so.

Dove indicated that he was willing to pay the cost for receiving copies, and provided a mailing address for the response, the Attorney General’s ruling said.

On July 26 Dove mailed a follow-up letter to the school district’s General Counsel saying he hadn’t received a response. In August, Dove filed an appeal with the Kentucky Attorney General’s office.

In September, the district showed the state Attorney General’s Office verification that they had emailed Dove records.

However, the Attorney General’s ruling indicated that the school district may not have had an accurate email for Dove. Dove did not give the school district an email address with his open records request or with his follow-up letter, the ruling said. No evidence exists that Dove received the email or the responsive records from the district, the Attorney General’s office said in its ruling.

“I think the Attorney General’s Office did a thorough investigation to determine there was non-compliance with my open records request,” Dove told the Herald-Leader Wednesday.

Deffendall, meanwhile, told the Herald-Leader, “we certainly respect the ruling from the Office of the Attorney General. It is always our intent to be fully transparent and comply with the Kentucky Open Records Act. In this case, we did reply in a timely manner via email; however, there was apparently a misunderstanding regarding how the requester wanted to receive the information. We are committed to ensuring this does not happen in the future.”

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