Bill protecting names of DougCo teachers taking sick leave goes to Polis

Suzie Glassman

By: Suzie Glassman / NewsBreak Denver

(Castle Rock, Co) The battle to protect DougCo teachers who called out sick to protest the firing of former superintendent Corey Wise and a resolution by the new majority board members to change the district's equity policy got reinforcement from state legislators late last week.

The Colorado House voted 46-16 to approve an anti-doxxing bill April 29, sending the bill to Gov. Jared Polis. Doxxing is a form of cyber-bullying that uses sensitive information to harass individuals.

According to the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition (CFOIC), "Senate Bill 22-171 was introduced in response to CORA requests and other public demands for the names of Douglas County School District educators and staff members who took sick leave Feb. 3 to protest actions by majority members of the school board."

Requests to release DougCo teacher names continue

The March log of Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests to the DougCo school district includes six requests for the names of teachers who took sick leave on Feb. 3.

Four of those requests came from corarequests.com, a website allowing individuals to request public records while remaining anonymous.

The website serves as a loophole to get around the fact that as of Jan. 1, 2022, individuals can no longer request having their names redacted from CORA submissions.

Two requests came from Robert Baxter, a private individual, citing that the "2016 Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Records showing a public school teacher's sick leave are not part of a teacher's confidential personnel file and must be disclosed to the public if requested."

The district refuses to release both the teacher names and the individual who submitted a CORA request for those names and later withdrew it.

Kyle Clark and 9News sued the district for refusing to release who requested teachers' names. The district says withdrawn CORA requests are not public information.

Teachers fear harassment

The CFOIC writes, ​"Sen. Jeff Bridges, the Greenwood Village Democrat who introduced SB 22-171, said the only reason someone would make a CORA request for the names of teachers who took specific sick days 'is for the purpose of intimidation, to create an imminent and serious threat to teachers.'"

Lucy Squire, who works in the Douglas County school system, told the CFOIC, "This was terrifying, the idea that parents and frankly anyone in the community could confront us."

"We feared that we would face retaliation for speaking up in response to decisions being made that would impact our school district. My husband, who was already concerned that my job was on the line, then became worried about my physical safety."

Senate bill 22-171

Once the bill becomes law, educators will join the list of protected persons whose personal information may be withheld from the internet if the protected person believes dissemination of such information poses an imminent and severe threat to the protected person or the safety of the protected person's immediate family.

Under current law, the CORA definition of "personnel file" does not include the specific date of an educator's absence from work.

The bill amends the CORA definition of "personnel file" to include the specific date of an educator's absence from work. Personnel files are non-disclosable.

Individuals can request the total sick days an educator takes.

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