A brief look at open records cases across the country

WISCONSIN — The state Supreme Court granted an appeal July 24 to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a case involving state open records law.Last May, a state court of appeals ruled Milwaukee Public Schools employees are entitled to judicial review to determine whether their records can be released to the public, a ruling unfavorable to the newspaper.No trial date has been set.OHIO — The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that student proficiency tests and school administered occupational skills tests are subject to state public disclosure laws.In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that under Ohio’s Public Records Act, the state must release parts of the 12th Grade Ohio Proficiency Test and the Ohio Vocational Competency Assessment a year after they are administered.Justice Frank E. Sweeney wrote the majority opinion in State ex rel Rea v. Ohio Department of Education, 81 Ohio St.3d 527 (1998), issued April 29.PENNSYLVANIA — The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled March 13 that school districts do not have to release teacher application packets to a local newspaper.The court denied the request of Luzerne County’s Times Leader for access to prospective teacher applications of the Hazleton Area School District. The court ruled the state open records law did not make the applications public records because the records were not “deemed essential to an agency decision.”The newspaper appealed the decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in mid-April. The court has yet to issue a response.OHIO — The state Supreme Court agreed July 3 to hear a superintendent’s appeal on a ruling that he violated state open records laws when he disposed of parents’ letters relating to allegations of abuse by a basketball coach.The 12th Appellate District of Ohio ruled that the letters Dennis Leone, former superintendent of the Talawanda School District in Oxford, received were public records under the Ohio Public Records Act and should not have been thrown away. The decision overturned a trial court ruling.Briefs for the case are due in the next few months.