La. BESE Talks to Itself About John White’s Two Lawsuits
This post features an email from Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary (BESE) president James Garvey to other BESE members concerning the lawsuits, White vs Finney, White vs. Deshotels et al. and the December 15, 2015, judgment of Deshotels vs. White.
Garvey’s email also references this April 21, 2016, USDOE FERPA guidance letter written in response to John White.
(I must note the irony in White seeking FERPA guidance given that in 2013, White had sent student social security numbers to be stored with inBloom– along with ethnicity and race. Except he did not publicly admit to sending SS#s– inBloom clarified it. And White stated that the inBloom relationship was over. Except it wasn’t.)
Below is Garvey’s email, dated June 03, 2016, in which he does not stop to consider that individuals are seeking detailed data from LDOE because they don’t trust White– the same guy who tried to pass off a fabricated voucher report to the full BESE board just three months ago.
No trust, for good reason.
Note that Garvey focuses on the Deshotels vs. White judgment and resulting White vs. Deshotels et al. lawsuit. He doesn’t address details of White vs. Finney, though he could be alluding to parts of it.
From: “James_Garvey@hmhlp.com” <James_Garvey@hmhlp.com>
To: “Shan N. Davis” <Shan.Davis@LA.GOV>, “Kira Orange Jones” <Kira.OrangeJones@LA.GOV>, “Holly Boffy” <Holly.Boffy@LA.GOV>, “Kathy Edmonston” <Kathy.Edmonston@LA.GOV>, “Gary Jones” <Gary.Jones@LA.GOV>, “Sandy Holloway” <Sandy.Holloway@LA.GOV>, “Tony Davis” <Tony.Davis@LA.GOV>, “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>, “Thomas Roque” <Thomas.Roque@LA.GOV>, “Lurie Thomason” <Lurie.Thomason@LA.GOV>
Subject: FOIA Suits
I have received from several of you questions about the recent 2 suits that were filed by the Louisiana DOE regarding FOIA requests and about the recent media stories regarding those suits. I will try to answer some of those questions.
Attached are copies of those suits. Also attached is the recent guidance letter from the US DOE.
Regarding the [USDOE] guidance letter, please note the second to last sentence in the last full paragraph on page 2, which states in part that “State educational agencies will need to apply statistical disclosure limitations when counts of additional, more sensitive, attributes are included in published data on students, including socio-economic status (such as FRPL [free reduced priced lunch]), disability status, and EL (English Learner) status, or when student performance, outcomes or disciplinary data are included”. This guidance letter, which was sent by the US DOE to the Louisiana DOE on April 21, 2016, attempts to clarify some of the issues that came up during the proceedings in the law suit that Michael Deshotels filed against the LA DOE back in (I think), 2013, which suit asked the courts to force the LA DOE to release some student data that the LA DOE thought would violate the FERPA prohibitions. That guidance letter lists some instances in which the LA DOE is prohibited from releasing private student data. Please note that the US DOE sends to Louisiana hundreds of millions of dollars each year; and the US DOE has threatened to withhold that money if it finds that the LA DOE is violating the FERPA prohibitions on releasing private student data.
In the suit that was filed by Michael Deshotels against the LA DOE, the court held that the LA DOE unreasonably withheld some student data that was requested by Mr. Deshotels. The current thought by the LA DOE attorneys is that if they could have presented to the court the April 21, 2016 guidance letter, the court would not have held that the LA DOE had unreasonably withheld that private student data. The LA DOE attorneys are currently appealing the court’s ruling in the 2013 case.
In an attempt to avoid a future court holding that the LA DOE was unreasonably withholding student data, the department decided to respond to more recent requests FOIA requests from Mr. Deshotels and James Finney by asking a Louisiana court to interpret the April 21, 2016 guidance letter with regard to how that letter applies to, and limits, Louisiana’s FOIA law. Because Mr. Deshotels and Mr. Finney made requests for data that the LA DOE believes are in violation of the US DOE guidance letter, Mr. Deshotels and Mr. Finney were referenced in the law suits.
Please note that the two suits do not fit what most people consider law suits. Neither of the two suits are asking for the court to force Mr. Deshotels or Mr. Finney to do something, and neither are asking for the courts to prohibit Mr. Deshotels or Mr. Finney from doing something, and neither of the suits could end up assessing damages against Mr. Finney or Mr. Deshotels. (Note that the requests in the suits for court costs and legal fees is irrelevant because court costs and legal fees can not be awarded by a court in this type of suit. Those requests were likely included out of force of habit, in that many other types of suits do allow for such awards and many attorneys follow the practice of asking for everything in the beginning, before it is too late, and then whittling down the requests later.) As such, the suits are only asking the courts to issue an interpretation of the guidance letter. In fact, Mr. Finney and Mr. Deshotels do not even need to respond to the suits. And, I would expect that these suits will end up saving them money, versus what the situation would have been if the LA DOE had waited for Mr. Finney and Mr. Deshotels to file suits asking for the courts to interpret the guidance issued by the US DOE.
If you have any other questions, please let me now.
Hailey, McNamara, Hall, Larmann & Papale, L.L.P.
METAIRIE OFFICE – One Galleria Blvd, Suite 1400, Metairie, LA 70001, 504-836-6500
BATON ROUGE OFFICE – 10771 Perkins Road, Suite 100, Baton Rouge, LA 70810, 225-766-5567
GULFPORT OFFICE – 302 Courthouse Road, Suite A, Gulfport, MS 39507, 228-896-1177
I don’t think the issue of “saving money” is at the forefront of Finney’s and Deshotel’s quest. It’s a matter of trust and of trying to hold accountable a greasy, fast-tracked “superintendent” who has an established reputation for narrative mud.
As long as there is White, there will be controversy and, likely, litigation.
Time for Louisiana’s next state superintendent.
Coming June 24, 2016, from TC Press: