Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules School Employees’ Home Addresses Off-Limits under the Right-to-Know Law
We are finally at the “end of the road” regarding litigation that commenced back in 2009 concerning whether public school employees’ home addresses must be produced in response to a Right-to-Know Law request.
On October 18, 2016, in PSEA v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that Article I, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution protects public school employees’ home addresses from disclosure in response to request for public records under the Right-to-Know Law. The Office of Open Records had interpreted the law to permit most public sector employees’ home addresses (except law enforcement officers and judges) to be subject to Right-to-Know Law requests. The Supreme Court rejected that argument, holding the personal right to privacy under the state constitution protects home addresses and other personal information from being disclosed by government agencies unless the public interest in the disseminating of such information outweighs the privacy interest. The Supreme Court found the constitutional right of public school employees to informational privacy outweighed the public interest of disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law. In reaching that conclusion, the court strongly criticized the use of the Right-to-Know Law “as a tool to procure personal information about private citizens or, in the worst sense, to be a generator of mailing lists.”
Because there had been an injunction in place prior to this latest Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the release of public school employee’s home addresses, public school entities should continue their existing practice of denying access to their employees’ home addresses when responding to Right-to-Know Law requests.
The Supreme Court’s decision further suggests that home addresses of other individuals, in the possession of school entities, may also be entitled to the same level of protection against disclosure when responding to similar requests. If you have specific questions regarding how to respond to Right-to-Know Law requests, please contact any of the education law attorneys at Kegel Kelin Almy & Lord.
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: