Public Lawsuit Records

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					                     NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                      CONTACT: Rob D’Amico, Texas AFT
July 10, 2008                                                              Cell: 512-627-1343

                                                                           Joe Bean, TSTA
                                                                           512-476-5355, ext. 1233




Texas AFT, TSTA, Education Austin sue to block
release of raw data on employee background checks
Texas AFT and the Texas State Teachers Association today joined with Education Austin—Texas AFT's and
TSTA‟s local affiliate representing employees in the Austin Independent School District—in a lawsuit to block
public release of raw, unevaluated data from criminal-history background checks.

Release of the raw data could be compelled under a recent Texas attorney general's ruling that defined portions of
the background-check information as "open records" under state law—even though the records are derived from
sources that prohibit public dissemination.

Education Austin is the leading organization representing teachers and support employees in the Austin school
district, with close to 4,000 members. The local union has been elected by all teachers and school employees in
the district to represent them in negotiations over education policy and working conditions with district
administrators.

The lawsuit, prepared by Texas AFT general counsel Martha Owen, would prevent Austin ISD from disclosing to
the public at large any individually identifiable information contained in the background-check data compiled by
the district pursuant to a new state law enacted last year.

The lawsuit would not hinder in any way use of the background-check information by the district and the State
Board for Educator Certification to enforce local policies and state laws imposing sanctions on employees for
many types of misconduct. Public disclosure of the number and types of offenses turned up by the background
checks also would not be affected by the lawsuit.

Louis Malfaro, president of Education Austin, said: “The purpose of the lawsuit is not to attack Austin ISD but to
block implementation of an ill-advised ruling by the attorney general. The reputations and careers of school
district employees could easily be ruined, without justification, by disclosure that their names are on „the list.'”


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BACKGROUND CHECKS
July 10, 2008
Page 2 of 2

“These state-mandated background checks on school employees can yield sometimes incomplete and sometimes
inaccurate raw data, touching on every encounter someone may have had with the criminal-justice system,
including arrests on ancient misdemeanor charges later dropped,” Malfaro said. “Also included may be records of
other long-ago misconduct, unrelated to someone's fitness to discharge educational duties, for which these
employees have long since met their obligation to society.”

Texas AFT President Linda Bridges added: “As educators, we take seriously our obligation to look out for the
best interests of our students, and we support stringent measures to protect them from harm. To achieve that goal,
it is not necessary to subject dedicated teachers and other school employees to public denigration just because a
background check turns up some record of a minor brush with the law or one that has long since been resolved
and that involves no threat of harm to students.”

“Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott‟s ruling that the Austin Independent School District has to release what
should be confidential information about employees reminds me of an old-time sheriff who believed in hanging
defendants before actually holding trials to determine if they might be guilty,” TSTA President Donna New
Haschke added. “We can protect students in our public schools without lynching school employees who may not
be guilty of anything or who may have committed minor infractions many years ago.”

                                                       ###

Texas AFT
3000 South IH-35, Suite 175 ♦ Austin, Texas 78704-6536
512-448-0130 ♦ 1-800-222-3827
www.texasaft.org

Texas State Teachers Association
316 West 12th Street ♦ Austin, Texas 78701
512-476-5355 ♦ 1-877-ASK-TSTA
www.tsta.org

				
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