Since December 2021, Carol Beth Litkouhi has been trying to get records from the Rochester Community School District. The district has refused to turn them over, wrongly citing copyright law and other statutes.
CASE UPDATE: On December 15, The Oakland County Circuit Court ruled that public school teachers are not considered public bodies and do not have to provide materials under Freedom of Information Act requests. The Mackinac Center will appeal this decision.
On December 14, 2021, Carol Beth Litkouhi, a parent in the Rochester Community School District, submitted a public records request to the district under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. She wanted information on “History of Ethnic and Gender Studies,” a course being taught within the district. Rochester Community Schools partially granted her request by providing a unit plan for the course, which provided only limited information. It denied the rest of her request. Carol Beth appealed the decision on January 19th, 2022.
Rochester Community Schools denied the appeal on February 8. It emphasized that it had provided all the documents that responded to the request. The district said it denied the appeal because there were no other relevant documents. The district, however, failed to address specific arguments Carol Beth made. In particular, if there were no relevant documents, that would mean classroom material had not been produced for a course that was actively being taught, and had been taught for over six months.
Carol Beth on Fox & Friends, April 28, 2022.
Separately, Carol Beth filed another FOIA request on December 27, 2021, asking for materials relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion training for the years 2020-2022. Rochester Community Schools granted the request after some correspondence on February 11, 2022. But it alleged that some of the relevant materials were protected by copyright, and because they were copyrighted, the district could not produce copies of them.
Carol Beth turned to the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, and on March 14, 2022 the Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit to have the FOIA requests provided in unredacted form. Rochester Community School District has an obligation under Michigan law to provide these documents to her. Its refusal to do this significantly hinders the goal of FOIA, which is to provide all people with “full and complete information regarding the affairs of government…so that they may fully participate in the democratic process.”