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Dougco releases name of person who requested teacher absence records

9NEWS sued in an effort to obtain a record of the request to release names of teachers and staff members who called out sick on Feb. 3.

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — A law partner of KHOW talk radio host Dan Caplis, who previously called for Douglas County School District (DCSD) to release the names of teachers who were absent on Feb. 3, filed the public records request to get those teachers' names.

Michael Kane confirmed to 9NEWS he submitted the request on Feb. 2, the day before many staff members walked out to protest the impending termination of Superintendent Corey Wise. The school board fired Wise without cause on Feb. 4.

Kane ended up rescinding his request before any names went public.

"I submitted the open records request for my own use as a parent of children within the Douglas County School District. As a favor to and at the request of the District, I withdrew the submission and never received any of the names," Kane told 9NEWS via email.

Kane's statement came hours after a Douglas County District judge on Thursday ordered DCSD to comply with a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request made by 9NEWS about the request for information related to the teacher walkout. The district gave 9NEWS the name of the person who made the initial request later in the afternoon.

DCSD also told 9NEWS that Kane withdrew his ask at the request of the district's legal team. 

In a statement on Twitter, however, Caplis said the school board made the request.

"I admire what my friend and partner Mike did. He’s a great dad who wanted the info for his personal use. I didn’t know he was going to submit the request. But I respect his reasons and admire him for withdrawing it at the Board’s request," he wrote.

It was on his Feb. 2 radio show that Caplis said the teacher absence records should be publicized.

"Tomorrow, if you are truly sick and you're a teacher in Douglas County, it may be the wrong day to be sick, because somebody smart is going to get the names of everybody who’s once again abandoning the children, and every parent should know that, and everybody should remember, starting with the politicians, who abandoned the children," Caplis said that day.

"Each and every one of those names should be public record, each and every one of those names should be public record."

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In mid-February, DCSD alerted staff members that someone requested information about the employees who did not work on the day of the protest.

The initial letter did not say who requested the information and ultimately the names were never released after the request was withdrawn.

9NEWS anchor Kyle Clark submitted his own records request to obtain the record of the original request to release the names, which would include the name of the person who made that request.

On March 10, 2022, Ioana Marin, public records manager for DCSD, notified Clark that the district would not make the initial request available and explained that the person who made the request orally withdrew it on Feb. 16, 2022. 

Since the request was withdrawn, Marin said it was no longer considered a "public record" under CORA and declined to produce the information.

Clark and 9NEWS sued the district to release the request for information.

On May 5, District Judge Jeffrey Holmes found that the district failed to show cause and ordered Marin to allow Clark to inspect the withdrawn CORA record.

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In his decision Holmes wrote there is "no authority" of which he is aware, that permits a requester to remove a CORA request from its status as a public record by simply asking that it be withdrawn.

He also noted that Clark's CORA for the original request was made prior to its withdrawal and it "clearly remained" a public document.

DCSD provided 9NEWS with this statement about the judge's order:

"The Douglas County School District (DCSD) has reviewed the District Court’s May 5, 2022 Order related to a lawsuit filed under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). DCSD defended the disclosure of the open records request at issue because it believes that a withdrawn CORA request is not a public record.

DCSD receives many information requests under CORA every day. We want our citizens to be comfortable asking for public records without fear of personal retaliation. We also feel strongly that it is important to protect our teachers and staff who may have been absent on February 3, 2022, for a variety of reasons, while simultaneously upholding our responsibility to provide publicly releasable documents under CORA."

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