News Story

Rochester parent takes quest for school records to Michigan Supreme Court

Asks for reversal of Feb. 22 Appeals Court ruling

An Oakland County parent who unsuccessfully sought documents used in a high school class asked the Michigan Supreme Court to intervene in an April 4 filing with the court.

In her request, Carol Beth Litkouhi argues that the state’s open records law applies to schoolteachers and that classroom materials are public records subject to FOIA law. The request comes after an appeals court ruling of Feb. 22 that most records held by local government employees are not subject to FOIA law. Litkouhi is represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.

Litkouhi approached the district in August 2021, seeking documents used in a class called History of Ethnic and Gender Studies, and a teacher then sent her an outline of the first two weeks of the class, court records show. Unsatisfied with the response, Litkouhi filed two FOIA requests, several months apart. District officials said they did not have lesson plans, readings, or assignments from the class. She filed suit in March 2022.

The trial court and then the Court of Appeals agreed with the district. Both courts ruled that teachers and other local government employees were not “public bodies.” This means the documents they create on the job are not subject to Michigan’s FOIA law, even if their create them as part of their public duties.

Litkouhi’s appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court warns that upholding these decisions could harm transparency by shielding the official records of local government employees from disclosure. “The lower courts’ interpretation of FOIA is inconsistent with decades of precedent and produces absurd results,” it reads. “Local governments can only act through employees or agents. A ruling which holds that FOIA requestors cannot obtain records produced and held by local-government employees in the performance of their official duties would render the provisions of FOIA related to local government meaningless.”

If the appeals court ruling is not reversed, an employee of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, warns, the cause of government transparency will suffer. “If this decision stands, the public’s ability to gain access to the records of local government will be severely curtailed,” Steve Delie, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center and an attorney, told CapCon.

For a timeline of events involving the case and updates from Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, visit this link.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.