Can a school district withhold FOIL email disclosure without an in camera review?

No. The Connetquot (Suffolk County) Teachers’ Association filed to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests for two categories of emails between the District Superintendent and the STEM chairperson and an assistant superintendent concerning elementary science courses and under enrollment of the AP Chemistry course.

The district either refused to turn over certain records or supplied redacted records claiming the intra-agency exemption and federal student privacy concerns in the production of the records. Under the inter-agency exemption public entities are exempt from disclosure of records which reflect the deliberative process in policy making.

The Court, after finding that the District’s support of its position was not specific enough ordered the production of records, in camera (by the Court in its chambers), to determine if the records should be disclosed. The Court wrote, “this Court has been deprived [of] the relevant and material information to make a reasoned judgment on whether the material sought to be protected is truly inter-agency or intra-agency or otherwise pure personal information properly withheld under the FOIL statute. Without this information, this Court would only be speculating whether respondent has properly discharged its duty under FOIL.”

In the Matter of the Application of ANTHONY F. FELICIO, JR., as President of the Connetquot Teacher’s Association, Inc., Petitioner, For Relief Pursuant to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules v. CONNETQUOT CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT OF ISLIP, Respondent. Docket No. 08339-2016, Motion Seq. No. 001 Mot D. Supreme Court, Suffolk County. 2017 NY Slip Op 31052(U) Motion Submit June 1, 2016. May 3, 2017.

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