A school district is punishing an advocacy group with a familiar tactic: adding onerous fees to open records requests.
The Sun Prairie Area School District (SPASD) presented a bill to the Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty (WILL) for $11,000 after the group requested records relating to a “Serious Violation of Girls’ Privacy Rights in Sun Prairie East Locker Room,” Fox News reports.
Nearly a month ago, parents were upset after a transgender student exposed his male genitalia to 14 year-old girls in the girls locker room while showering.
The incident occurred after a girls gym class which included swimming, said local Fox News Now 6.
In a letter to WILL, the district admitted that the incident “should not have happened,” but seemed to deflect any criticism directed to school officials or district administrators by saying reports of the incident were “ill-informed, inaccurate and incomplete,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The trans student in question was 18-years-old, the Journal Sentinel reports, and casually commented to the 14 year old girls, “I’m trans by the way,” before fully disrobing and exposing his genitalia to the girls.
WILL says that the conduct meets the requirements for sexual harassment under Title IX of the U.S. code.
WILL also says the district has not fully disclosed what was found during its investigation of the incident, and sent a letter asking for records in the case.
The letter amounted to a public records request, said the district general counsel.
On May 10, WILL received a letter from SPASD’s general counsel acknowledging the receipt of the open records request, and they demanded a pre-payment of $11,000 before the law firm would even begin to fulfill its client’s obligations under Wisconsin law to produce the records, according to the copy of the letter obtained by Fox News.
“Until this estimate is paid, the District will not proceed to locate any responsive records to this request,” said SPASD General Counsel Lori Lubrinsky, an attorney at Axley Brynelson, LLP.
School districts and government administrators have increasingly been using prohibitive fee schedules for records requests in order to deny, delay or discourage people from making them.
In February, a judge in Nebraska sided with an advocacy group after a public administrator presented them with a $44,000 bill in order to handle an open records request.
Earlier this month, Mendocino County voted to repeal the controversial fee schedule relating to records requests that had been enacted just a year earlier. Critics contended that the county’s fees were just a way to discourage groups from asking for information.