Friday, April 30, 2010

Tulsa Public Schools refuses to release records related to inappropriate touching of elementary students by assistant principal

Tulsa Public Schools on Thursday refused requests by the Tulsa World and at least one television station for all e-mails, memos and other records about possible inappropriate touching of students by a Skelly Elementary School assistant principal, the newspaper reported.

Tulsa police are investigating the allegations against the administrator.

Tulsa Public Schools officials, responding to the newspaper's records request, said in a press release:
Tulsa Public Schools is aware of a police investigation involving a TPS employee at Skelly Elementary School. District administrators and other staff have been fully cooperative with Tulsa police in that ongoing investigation. TPS will continue to cooperate in the investigation as required and allowed by law. …

At this point, because there are ongoing criminal and employment investigations involving confidential information with regard to a student and an employee, Tulsa Public Schools will not release any documents, e-mails or correspondence as to this matter as those items are privileged and protected by law. No further comment will be made by the district at this time with regard to this matter.
The newspaper noted that under the state Open Records Act, any records that "would otherwise be available for public inspection and copying, shall not be denied because a public body or public official is using or has taken possession of such records for investigatory purposes or has placed the records in a litigation or investigation file." (OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24A.20)

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism

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Differing interpretations of law and policy are welcome. Personal attacks and character assassinations will be rejected.