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Jeffco union wins injunction to stop release of names of educators involved in sick out

The Jefferson County teachers union has won a preliminary injunction that temporarily stops Jeffco Public Schools from complying with an open-records request to provide the names of teachers who collectively called in sick last year.

According to the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition:

A motion filed by the union in Jefferson County District Court last week asserts that teacher-absence files are personnel records and “medical information” that must be kept confidential under the Colorado Open Records Act. Releasing the names, it claims, would violate the teachers’ privacy and “cause (them) irreparable injury.”

Fifty teachers at Conifer and Standley Lake high schools called in sick Sept. 19 in a protest against the conservative school board majority. Both schools canceled classes. Classes at Golden and Jefferson high schools were also canceled Sept. 29 after a large number of teachers also called in sick or took personal days.

At the time, Superintendent Dan McMinimee vowed that teachers who did not follow the proper protocol for calling in sick or taking a personal day would be reprimanded.

But that wasn’t enough for the parents who filed the request, according to the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition:

Golden parent Kathy Littlefield told the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition that she requested the teachers’ names because “I don’t want them teaching my kids. I don’t think they showed much respect for the kids, doing what they did. If you’re going to (protest), do it on your own time.” The teachers, she added, should “take responsibility and show who you are. Why are you hiding yourself?”

Littlefield is one of at least two parents to request this information.

Parent and teacher Kyle Walpole had previously requested the names of teachers at Conifer who participated in the sick out. At first, he was denied the information. However, a lawyer arguing for the coalition pointed out that the request did not seek the reason for the teacher absences, only whether they were absent.

Jeffco officials eventually released to Walpole the roster of teachers who called in from Conifer, but the names of teachers from the other three schools have not been released.

From the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition:

After Littlefield’s CORA request, which was sent by email on Feb. 10., the school district notified the teachers union that it intended to release the records “on or about” Feb. 18, the motion says. Littlefield received an email from district community relations assistant Veronica Bennett on Feb. 12, saying that she would “forward the documents” on Feb. 18.

Littlefield was notified last week that the district would not fulfill the request to release the names of teachers publicly. A hearing on the matter is set for May 15.

“Jeffco teachers and our community need clarity about what is part of a private personnel file and what is public information,” the union’s president John Ford said in a statement.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed a statement from the union. It should have been attributed to John Ford, the union’s president. This post has also been updated to clarify that the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition does not represent Kathy Littlefield.

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