Court rules on open records law
Special to the Nevada Appeal
The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled the state’s Open Record Law requires the disclosure of an investigative file on the misconduct of a local school board trustee.
But the court said the names of victims can be deleted from the investigation by the Clark County School District.
The opinion, filed Thursday, said the district court must decide if it’s in the public interest to delete some of the others such as teachers and administrative personnel.
The case involves school trustee Kevin Child of Las Vegas who was accused in 2016 of making suggestive sexual comments to students and teachers and engaging in “disruptive, threatening and inappropriate behavior at public events.”
After an investigation, the Clark County School District banned Child from schools and other events. The Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper sought details of the investigation. The school district, after some delays, turned over some of the records but decided there was confidential information in other parts of the probe.
The newspaper sued and District Judge Timothy Williams ordered the district to turn over the investigative records. The district then appealed to the Supreme Court.
The court, in a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Mark Gibbons, held that withheld documents aren’t confidential by law. Gibbons said the regulations of the school district to make the records confidential was an “end run” around the Nevada Open Records Law.
The court said the confidential records can’t be withheld where there’s a potential federal law violation. In this case the court said the school district sought to shield itself from how the investigation was conducted.
The district court ruling allowed the release of the names of the staff and the schools where the events took place. The school district said it withheld the names of employees who fear retaliation. The newspaper agreed not to disclose the names of the sexual victims.
Judge Williams ordered the school district to reveal the names of the schools, administrative employees including deans and principals and teachers.
The court said there must be a balancing test between the names of these employees and the public interest.
The decision said the district court must adequately weigh “the competing interests of privacy and government accountability.”
The court said Judge Williams must consider the privacy interest of the names of the teachers and other employees before the disclosure of their names.