HCPSS MPIA Request #2023-019

Matt Drange
Business Insider
Requested Information
Pursuant to the state open records law, Md. General Provisions Code Ann. Secs. 4-101 to 4-601, I write to request access to and a copy of the following, which I understand to be held by your agency:

-All separation agreements and settlements reached with current and former teachers who taught in the district between January 1, 2017 through the day this request is fulfilled.

-All public records relating to any and all claims of misconduct against current and former teachers who taught in the district between January 1, 2017 through the day this request is fulfilled. Such public records should include, but not be limited to, all complaints; allegations; claims; investigatory reports; analyses; summaries; memoranda and/or notes; interview recordings; transcripts and/or notes; reviews; emails, text or other electronic messages, voicemails, and/or other communications and/or correspondence; determinations; decisions; orders; resignation letters; employment reclassification documents; offers in compromise and/or settlement agreements; termination and/or transfer papers; letters of reproval and/or other disciplinary actions, whether imposed or not; referrals to law enforcement, administrative, and/or licensing agencies, departments, and/or bodies; appeals; court filings and/or rulings; and all similar materials notwithstanding the use of other terminology, nomenclature, or categorization by this or other involved public agencies.

To further clarify this request, the scope of the misconduct at issue arises from, relates to, and/or is a consequence of sexual behavior and/or activities with district students, whether currently or previously enrolled, and notwithstanding whether any such behavior and/or activities were proven to have occurred or not. The construction of this request should be understood to be liberal and expansive, such that all public records which may be remotely responsive should be produced in full and may only be withheld and/or redacted only as required by law.
Date Received
Response Notes

Responsive to the first portion this request, and per indication you are seeking such records regardless of the reason/rationale for departure, HCPSS does not utilize separation agreements when classroom teachers leave the school system whether through resignation, retirement, or termination. Additionally, a review of files in our Board of Education and General Counsel’s Office – which would handle legal settlements related to staff departure – resulted in no settlement records related to teachers who taught in the district since January 1, 2017, regardless of the underlying reason/rationale for departure.

MPIA GP § 4-311 prevents disclosure of personnel records of an individual including those related to hiring, discipline, promotion, dismissal, or any other matter involving a specific employee’s status. Records related to claims of misconduct for sexual behavior and/or activities with district students against current and former teachers who taught in the district since January 1, 2017, including the personnel investigation, emails, letters or other communications regarding the claim, allegation, investigation, and determination by HCPSS related to the employee’s status or disciplinary actions are considered personnel records of the individual employee. As noted in the Seventeenth Edition of the Maryland Public Information Act Manual created by Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General, “To be clear, records related to an employer’s investigation of alleged misconduct by government employees other than police officers [are] subject to GP § 4-311’s mandatory exemption.” Additionally, specific to your request for court filings, under MPIA GP § 4-301 a custodian shall deny inspection of a record if contrary to the rules adopted by the Court of Appeals, such as Maryland Rule 4-642, which requires court records pertaining to certain criminal investigations to be sealed and protects against disclosure of matters occurring before a grand jury.

Beyond the scope of the individual personnel records, the spreadsheet below is an existing tracking record used by the HCPSS Employee and Labor Relations office containing summary details pulled for those instances of claims of misconduct related to sexual behavior and/or activities with district students against current and former teachers who taught in the district since January 1, 2017. Where memoranda were issued to the Board of Education in these cases, or certificate revocation letters were sent from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), copies have been included below as well. Under MPIA GP § 4-311 we have redacted reference to individual employees involved as well as incident locations, specific incident, arrest or action dates, MSDE case numbers, and other details which have the potential to identify those employees. Similarly, under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which restricts access to student records, and MPIA GP § 4-313, which prevents disclosure of school district records pertaining to individual students, given the specific nature of this request and the small number of cases, the redaction of details of each incident also protects the potential to reveal student information from the responsive records. Under MPIA GP § 4-330, we have also redacted sociological information where it contains personal addresses, social security numbers, and/or has the potential to pose a risk to individual privacy.

Responsive Documents

*Some request language is summarized to include the requester's specific document requests and legally protected information (such as personally identifiable information of a student) or personal, defamatory and malicious content removed at the discretion of the school system.

**Responses containing legally protected information available only to the person of interest are omitted from the above report.

***Howard County Public Schools reserves the right to remove erroneous or outdated documents from this site.