The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that school districts cannot withhold the financial details of individualized education programs for special-education students placed in specialized private schools - but that they can strike any information in those records that might identify specific students and their learning disabilities, such as their names, ages and the schools they attend.
The ruling comes in the case of a Weston resident who wanted to know how much the town was spending on such education and requested details of all the individualized education plans for local students placed in private schools.
The state's highest court ruled that once a school system redacts information from files that might identify the student and his disabilities in violation of state privacy laws, the remaining information is subject to the state's open-records law.
[O]nce personally identifiable information is redacted, the financial terms of such agreements, which necessarily reflect the use of public monies, partially or fully, to pay for out-of-district placements, do not constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; indeed, the public has a right to know the financial terms of these agreements.
The court rejected an argument from Weston that its special-ed files also included a confidentiality agreement with parents to not release any information. The court said that a school system cannot simply wave off the public-records law like that.