Earlier today, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released an updated version of Ohio Sunshine Laws: An Open Government Resource Manual, which is commonly referred to as the “Yellow Book.” The manual includes information about Ohio’s Public Records Act and Open Meetings Act (collectively referred to as the Sunshine Laws) and includes recent updates.
All elected officials or their appropriate designees are required to attend public records training approved by the attorney general (RC 149.43(E)). The training must be for three hours for each term of office for which the elected official was appointed or elected to the public office (RC 109.43(B)).
On June 30, 2013, House Bill (HB) 59, also known as the budget bill, was signed by Governor Kasich. Effective September 29, 2013, the bill added a new topic to the topics that may be discussed during an executive session of a public body.
Under current law, RC 121.22 (G) provides seven topics, six of which are applicable to school boards, which allow public bodies to remove themselves from public view to engage in discussion regarding certain matters.
The OSBA Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) recently assisted the Strongsville City School District Board of Education by submitting a amicus curiae brief supporting the district's position in a public records case.
On March 4, the Strongsville Education Association (SEA) began a labor strike of the district's facilities. The school board hired temporary replacement teachers and continued operating the schools. The strike continued until April 28, when the parties approved a successor collective bargaining agreement.
School districts sometimes receive requests for public records citing the federal Freedom of Information Act, or "FOIA."
Are school districts in Ohio, political subdivisions of the State, subject to the Freedom of Information Act? The answer is no.
The Supreme Court of Ohio recently ruled on a public records case between Columbus State Community College and a former employee. The ruling may assist school districts dealing with overbroad public records requests.
In the case, State ex Rel. Zidonis v. Columbus State Cmty. Coll., 2012-Ohio-4228, Sunday Zidonis was terminated from her employment with Columbus State. Following her termination, Zidonis made several public records requests to the college for certain emails as well as complaint and litigation files over a six-year period.
The OSBA Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) recently participated in an Ohio Supreme Court case between The Ohio State University (Ohio State) and ESPN. The LAF joined the Ohio Legal Rights Service, Community Legal Aid Services, and Northeast Ohio Legal Services, and submitted an amici curiae brief arguing that Ohio State was prohibited from disclosing the records requested by ESPN pursuant to Ohio's Public Records Act and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
What is a public record?
RC 149.43(A)(1) defines a public record as "records kept by any public office including any state, county, city, village, township, and school district units, and records pertaining to the delivery of educational services by an alternative school in this state kept by the nonprofit or for-profit entity operating the alternative school." A record is defined in RC 149.011 (G) to include "any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, including electronic records."
I recently listened to a webinar conducted by the Ohio Historical Society (OHS) that was designed to review best practices for managing and retaining public records in Ohio. The host of the webinar mentioned a change that HB 153 made to record retention practices. It has the potential to lessen the burden on school districts with regard to the disposal of records, so it's worth repeating.