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Tipsheet

Here’s Why a School District Is Charging Parents $18,000 to Obtain Public Records

AP Photo/Ron Harris

A Maryland school district will charge a parental rights organization tens of thousands of dollars to obtain public records pertaining to opt-ed measures with its curriculum on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

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Parents Defending Education (PDE), an organization centered around protecting parents’ rights, filed a public records request with Montgomery County Public Schools over its opt-out policy. Reportedly, the school system previously allowed families to opt-out of its lessons on sex and gender, but then reversed course.

According to National Review, Nicki Neily, president and founder of PDE, asked for “all records in the possession of the Montgomery County Public Schools between Apr 1, 2023 and Aug. 2, 2023 that contain the terms ‘opt-in and/or ‘opt-out’” from 30 registered MCPS email addresses. This was done through a Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) request. 

Soon after, Christopher Cram, the school system’s communications director, told Neily that “based on your unwillingness to narrow the scope” of her public records quest, it would cost her $18,290.96 and take until October to complete.

“Is it little wonder that families have lost trust in the school system when requests for transparency are met with disdain and condescension?” Neily told the outlet.

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Agencies are meant to only charge a "reasonable fee" for public records requests.

"In Montgomery County Public Schools, 'transparency' and 'accountability' are dirty words, but the graphic sex acts that parents object to in their children’s books is completely acceptable," Neily told Townhall.

This month, Townhall covered how the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that three parents in the Montgomery County school district could not challenge a policy keeping them in the dark about their children’s gender identity. According to NBC News, this was due to the fact that the parents had not alleged their children were transgender in the first place (via United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit):

The parents have not alleged that their children have gender support plans, are transgender or are even struggling with issues of gender identity. As a result, they have not alleged facts that the Montgomery County public schools have any information about their children that is currently being withheld or that there is a substantial risk information will be withheld in the future. Thus, under the Constitution, they have not alleged the type of injury required to show standing. 

Absent an injury that creates standing, federal courts lack the power to address the parents’ objections to the Guidelines. That does not mean their objections are invalid. In fact, they may be quite persuasive. But, by failing to allege any injury to themselves, the parents’ opposition to the Parental Preclusion Policy reflects a policy disagreement. And policy disagreements should be addressed to elected policymakers at the ballot box, not to unelected judges in the courthouse. So, we remand to the district court to dismiss the case for lack of standing.

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Frederick Claybrook, a lawyer for the parents, said: “Parents do not have to wait until they find out that damage has been done in secret before they may complain.”

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