COMMONWEALTH COURT CONFIRMS SCHOOL DISTRICTS NOT REQUIRED TO RELEASE RECORDS CONTAINING DISTRICT EMPLOYEE HOME ADDRESSES
There has been much argument in recent years concerning whether school districts are permitted or required to release the home addresses of district employees pursuant to the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law (RTKL). As a result of growing controversy, PSEA in 2009 requested that the Commonwealth Court enter an injunction preventing disclosure of home addresses, and the Court granted the injunction on July 28, 2009.
Subsequently, there has been ongoing controversy concerning the continuing validity and impact of the 2009 injuction. Most recently, the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees petitioned the Court to vacate the 2009 injuction.
On Tuesday, March 25, 2014, the Court denied the request, and also clarified that the injuction applies only to the release of records by school districts, not to the release of records by other entities that might contain home addresses of school district employees.
In reaching this result, the Court relied on the RTKL exception to mandatory disclosure where release of information “would be reasonably likely to result in a substantial and demonstrable risk of physical harm to or the personal security of an individual.” In doing so, the Court relied on testimony by an expert in the field of school violence. The expert pointed to the significant increase in violence at schools in recent years, and provided his opinion that teachers and other employees would be placed in harm’s way by release of home addresses.
Although ruling that home addresses are not subject to mandatory RTKL disclosure, the Court reiterated that there is no constitutional right of privacy in one’s home address under the Pennsylvania Constitution. A constitutional right of privacy would prohibit release of home addresses under all circumstances.
In light of this decision, KKAL continues to recommend that school districts not disclose employee home addresses except when required by a specific law (such as in connection with employee tax filings), when a court orders, or when an employee consents in writing.
We hope you find this issue of KKAL’s Education Law Watch helpful and informative. Please understand that the Law Watch is designed to provide information about current developments and required actions. It does not constitute legal advice, and school districts should consult a lawyer knowledgeable in this area of the law prior to taking specific actions on the issues addressed.
If you have any questions regarding any education law matter, including the issues discussed in this newsletter, please do not hesitate to contact us at 717/392-1100, or email us at the following addresses:
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Kegel Kelin Almy & Lord LLP is a regional law firm with offices in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. KKAL is solicitor and general counsel to 20 school districts and joint school systems – and bond counsel, finance counsel, or special joint counsel to many others in Central and Eastern Pennsylvania. In addition, KKAL frequently serves Pennsylvania school districts for unusual and challenging problems, projects, or litigation.