(The Center Square) – Mequon-Thiensville Schools is 0-for-3 trying to keep its email lists secret.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals on Wednesday said the school district cannot withhold its alumni, recreation department, and Momentum newsletter recipients email lists from parents who want to offer an alternative to the district’s support of “The Talk: A Necessary Conversation on Privilege and Race with Our Children.”
The three judge panel slapped down Mequon-Thiensville’s argument that sharing the lists would hurt its ability to communicate with parents, or would be too much work to share.
“In short, the District wants to be able to use government resources to collect and utilize these email addresses to promote and advance the particular ‘community outreach’ issues and positions of District (government) leaders while denying others in the community the opportunity to utilize the e-mail addresses to share differing viewpoints,” the judges wrote. “[Wisconsin’s Open Records law] does not tolerate utilizing taxpayer resources for an ideological or political monopoly.”
Tom Kamenick, President and Founder of the Wisconsin Transparency Project which was a part of the legal case against Mequon-Thiensville Schools, said Wisconsin’s Open Records laws are very clear.
“The attorney general has released consistent guidance for decades that government distribution lists – whether emails, phone numbers, or mailing addresses – must be released to record requesters,” Kamenick said. “It’s good to now have a published decision binding on courts and record custodians around the state.”
Mequon Alderman Mark Gierl filed an open records request for the email lists, but was initially denied. He wanted to counter the comments that the school districts shared via email about “The Talk.”
A judge in November of last year initially ordered the school district to turn over its email list for parents.
Then a judge in Ozaukee County ruled in October that the school district cannot withhold its other three email lists.
Mequon-Thiensville’s superintendent said in a statement that the district is simply trying to protect parents’ privacy.
“Not only is MTSD disappointed by this decision, but we are downright appalled by the court’s brazen politicization of the District’s efforts to protect the personal information of our families and community members who have entrusted it to us,” superintendent Matthew Joynt said in a statement.
Joynt said the district is considering taking the case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.