San Diego Schools to Begin Posting Records Responses Online

The San Diego Union-Tribune

March 27, 2017

Facing a backlog that has pushed even routine public-records requests to three months or longer, the San Diego Unified School District will begin posting documents on the internet as they are released.

In a memo to district managers last week, district lawyers said the change is part of an ongoing effort to reduce response times and increase transparency.

“As the next step in our work, beginning May 1, 2017, we will be uploading the bulk of the documents we have provided in response to Public Records Act requests, and the associated requests, into the ‘library’ on BoardDocs,” General Counsel Andra Donovan wrote Thursday. “This will allow the public to freely access the requests we have received and the documents provided in response.”

BoardDocs is a web-based portal operated by Emerald Data Solutions, a Georgia company that posts documents on behalf of 2,000-plus public agencies and other organizations. The San Diego Unified School District has uploaded board agendas, staff reports and other records on the website for years.

The change comes after complaints that San Diego Unified too often fails to comply with provisions of the state open-records law that require public agencies to respond to requests within 10 days.

District officials blamed the backlog on limited resources and the practice of answering requests in the order they are received, meaning simple requests often must wait while district lawyers respond to more complicated ones.

The district plans exceptions to the public posting process in cases in which sensitive student or employee information was not fully redacted, the memo states.

“For example, documents we may have provided to a parent would not be redacted to protect the privacy of the child,” the note states.

Facing a lawsuit from parent activist Sally Smith, the district recently opened up public access to an employee web page where policies and other district communications were posted, as well. The action was part of a settlement of the lawsuit, although officials said they planned to open up access anyway.