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Granite Bay school records lawsuit costs district roughly $200,000

Dad wanted documents pertaining to school’s response to YouTube video posted by son
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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The Roseville Joint Union High School District spent more than $200,000 in a battle with a dad over the parent's right to fully access his child’s school records.

Nearly two years after Granite Bay High School parent Mike Harris filed a lawsuit against the district seeking access to public records, the district agreed to pay his attorney and court fees.

Earlier this fall, the district settled for $135,000, and will pay an estimated $80,000 to $100,000 for its own legal fees and related expenses, according to a statement issued by the district Wednesday.

In May, a Placer County Superior Court judge ruled in Harris’ favor regarding his January 2010 lawsuit against the district arguing that the California Public Records Act gave him the right to view all files related to his son, Erick Harris.

“(The district) did everything they could to prevent Mike from seeing records that any parents should be allowed to see,” said his attorney Paul Nicholas Boylan in a news release. “But in the end the court decided to defend not just Mike’s rights, but every parent’s right to see their children’s school records.”

In November 2009, Mike Harris requested the records to support his claims that his son, then a senior, had been unfairly excluded from the school’s basketball program. As a junior, Erick Harris was the starting point guard for the varsity team, according to a previous Press Tribune article.

During the summer of 2009, Erick Harris and some friends posted a video on YouTube “parodying rap/hip hop music videos and satirizing/commenting upon aspects of the Granite Bay community’s underground youth drug culture,” according to the lawsuit.

Administrators learned of the video in October 2009 and “expelled Erick Harris from playing on (the) basketball team,” according to the lawsuit.

The district’s statement says this wasn’t the case and “in actuality, the son had not even participated in formal tryouts.”

In November 2009, Mike Harris asked for immediate access to all records in connection with his son and the video.

He viewed his son’s cumulative and disciplinary files, but wasn’t allowed access to emails, audio recordings or notes from meetings pertaining to his son.

“The district provided all traditional school records to the parent. … Whenever the district receives an unusual request for electronic records, (it) consults with legal counsel,” according to the district’s statement.

The district says it offered several times to provide copies of the documents in various formats but the parent wasn’t satisfied.

“The court ruled that the district needed to provide the emails in a format that was beyond the capacity of (its) technology department,” according to the district’s statement.

The district contracted with a private digital forensic company to compile the requested records in the format requested.

The district says it routinely provides public records when requested.

“In this particular case, the advice the district received from counsel was not supported in court,” wrote the district in the statement. “Based on this experience, new policies and procedures are being put into place to ensure that all future requests for public records are handled appropriately.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.