Douglas County School District turns over withdrawn request for teacher absences

Records from sick-out remain unreleased

McKenna Harford
mharford@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/6/22

A judge’s order resulted in the Douglas County School District naming a man who in February requested the names of teachers who were absent on the day of a contentious sick-out and then …

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Douglas County School District turns over withdrawn request for teacher absences

Records from sick-out remain unreleased

Posted

A judge’s order resulted in the Douglas County School District naming a man who in February requested the names of teachers who were absent on the day of a contentious sick-out and then withdrew his request.

Previously, the school district had declined requests from Colorado Community Media and Kyle Clark of 9News to produce the withdrawn request and who filed it, which prompted Clark and 9News’ parent company, TEGNA, to sue the district for the record.

On May 5, a judge ruled in 9News’ favor, ordering the school district to immediately release the withdrawn request. 

“There is no authority of which this court is aware, that permits a requester to remove a CORA request from its status as a public record by simply asking that it be withdrawn,” Douglas County District Court Judge Jeffery Holmes wrote in his order. “This is especially true when, as here, a CORA request is made for an Original Request prior to any effort at withdrawal and the Original Request clearly remained a public document seeking and triggering government action.”

The withdrawn request shows Colorado attorney Michael Kane asked for a list of the teachers who submitted absence requests for the Feb. 3 sick-out, which forced classes to cancel. Kane has not responded to requests for comment.

Kane sent an email statement to 9News that said he made the request for personal use as a district parent and withdrew his request after being asked to do so by the district.

Kane works with Dan Caplis, an attorney and conservative radio show host. 9News reports that Caplis said on his show "somebody smart is going to get the names of everybody who’s once again abandoning the children" the same day Kane filled his request.

Another February request made to the school district by a Robert L. Baxter for the names of teachers out on Feb. 3 was denied, with the district claiming it would violate staff’s medical confidentiality rights. Messages left with a Robert L. Baxter have gone unreturned.

A spokeswoman for the district’s legal team provided Colorado Community Media a copy of a statement addressed to Baxter.

The statement read:

“Dear Mr. Baxter,

The District declines to produce the requested records pursuant to C.R.S. 24-72-204(1)(a) because the inspection would be contrary to state statute. Pursuant to C.R.S. 8-13.3-412 (2), ‘Any health or safety information possessed by an employer regarding an employee or employee's family member must be treated as confidential medical records and not disclosed except to the affected employee or with the express permission of the affected employee.’ 

The District also declines to produce the requested records pursuant to C.R.S. 24-72-204(3)(a)(I) because the inspection of ‘electronic health records, on individual persons’ is prohibited by the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA).’”   

According to the district’s March CORA log, Baxter has since made at least two more requests for the same information, calling the district’s legal reasoning “erroneous.”

Aside from Kane’s and Baxter’s requests, four other requests from CORArequest.com have been filed for similar information on the at least 1,500 teachers and staff who were absent for the sick-out.

The district confirmed that it has not released any records of staff absences or sick leaves on Feb. 3 in response to record requests seeking that information.

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