AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today announced that he had filed a "friend of the court" brief against the Dallas Independent School District. The brief argues that DISD is improperly withholding electronic information from parents and community groups. The brief cites a provision of the Public Information Act that applies directly to computer information and urges the Dallas Court of Appeals to order DISD to release the information.
"The law entitles citizens to public information in all of its forms - - written, audio, even electronic," Attorney General Cornyn said. "I will continue to protect citizens' access to public records, whether that information is available on paper or on computer disk."
The case began in 1997 when Russell Fish requested an electronic copy of the database containing student test scores from the DISD. For many years DISD has administered the Iowa Test of Basic Skills to its students to measure students' abilities in reading and math. DISD keeps a record of all the test scores in its computers and runs various programs to analyze the test score database.
Fish wanted a copy of the test score database in order to do an independent analysis of those records. He was working with the Dallas Chapter of the NAACP and the District III chapter of LULAC. Fish specifically asked for an electronic copy, but DISD said that the special provision in the Act dealing with electronic information did not apply and denied the request.
Fish sued DISD alleging that it had violated the Public Information Act, but he lost in the trial court. Fish appealed that decision, and this case is currently pending before the Dallas Court of Appeals.
The Attorney General's brief supports Fish's appeal. In the friend of the court brief, the Attorney General urges the court to base its decision on a 1995 amendment to the Public Information Act, section 552.231. That amendment provides the correct procedures for removing student names and other sensitive information before releasing the test scores.
The case is set for oral argument next Wednesday, June 21, 2000, in the courtroom of the Dallas Court of Appeals. The style of the case is Cause No. 11-99-00177-CV, Fish and Dallas NAACP Branch v. Dallas Independent School District.
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