Attempting to Obtain Information Through a Looking-Glass

Everything you know is wrong

Black is white, up is down and short is long

-Weird Al Yankovic

When I was a student, 44 was definitely larger than ten; I am sure of it. I did not fail math until I reached Calculus Three in college and in all the classes before that, 44 was the larger number. However, according to the LAUSD, this is not longer the case.

The LAUSD’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) freely admits that they “had ten days from receipt of [my] email to determine whether [my] request, in whole or in part, asked for disclosable public records.” According to my calculations, their e-mail on September 21, notifying me that “the records you have requested are exempt from disclosure” was provided 44 days after my initial request. Still, they maintain that “there was no delay in responding to [my] request.” Common Core has sure made math confusing! Perhaps I need to show my work in order for the law to be followed.

Math is not the only subject that has been affected by this looking-glass logic. I asked if their failure to claim an exemption within the ten day period disqualified their ability to claim that this material was privileged. Their response was that they did not have “ten days to make the determination that the information being requested was exempt from disclosure.” Instead, they had “to determine whether [my] request...asked for disclosable public records.” Substituting one phrase with one that means the exact same thing does not prove a legal point - it only shows that they are familiar how to use 1984ish double speak.  

Technology also seems to work differently within the LAUSD. Google searched the entire Internet in .38 seconds for the term “disruptive parent letter,” but the OGC maintains that a search of “outbound e-mails of LAUSD Principals” is of such a “magnitude” that it would be “treading new ground” and “may take 60 to 90 days to fulfill.” Even if this is the same IT department who deployed MiSiS before it tested it adequately, I cannot believe that they are so inept that they would have purchased an e-mail system without basic search tools. Does a system without this capability even exist?

This was part of a response to a Public Records Act Request that I made on August 16, to find out how extensively schools in the District are using “Disruptive Parent Letters.” The request asked for any e-mail, memo or letter from any LAUSD Principal that includes one of two key phrases from one of these letters that I had previously investigated. Originally they wanted me to provide “the names of the individuals and/or schools” who wrote these letters as searching all “1,000 schools in the District...would take an unreasonable amount of time” and this “is not an efficient use of public funds.” In an effort to limit the time spent on this project, I told them that I would accept a complete count of these letters issued during the last school year broken down by each school in lieu of copies of the actual letters. The District is still “exploring options on how to conduct a less disruptive but diligent search for records to fulfill this part of [my] request” as they do not capture “specific data on disruptive parent letters.”

This lack of accounting is strange in a district that lists “parent and community engagement” as one of its five goals. Since Disruptive Parent Letters specifically limit a parent’s involvement in their child’s education, including the ability to become an authorized volunteer, the Superintendent’s office has an obligation to track if these letters are being used to keep students safe, or like teacher jail, have morphed into a way to bully stakeholders into blind obedience. At the very minimum, the District should understand how many of these letters have been issued and if some schools are using them more than others, but the OGC’s response demonstrates that this is not being done.

In the state-mandated Local Control and Accountability Plan and Annual Update Template, the Parent Advisory Committee asked for “a formal District policy which includes authentic impartial fact-finding and an appeal process to be utilized by parents who have any unresolved issues with site administrators, or who experience mistreatment, discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in any form, including the issuance of a ‘disruptive parent letter’ against them.” While the Superintendent has no idea how many of these letters have been issued, his response was that the District already “has a formal policy for addressing and resolving concerns brought forward by parents and community members.” Conveniently, he did not give details about how affected parents should avail themselves of this policy. He, like the office that is supposed to support accountability by answering public requests for information, just says the words he thinks will make the meddling stakeholders go away. What we really want is uncensored answers and action: