December 12, 2013
OZARK, Ala. (AP) - A judge has ruled that any official disciplinary action in an Ozark school teacher's personnel file must be made public under Alabama's open records law.
The ruling by Dale County Circuit Judge P.B. McLauchlin is described today by the school system's attorney as the first in Alabama that holds teachers are "public officers" whose disciplinary files must be made public.
Attorney Henry Steagall of Ozark called it a "major ruling that could have implications statewide."
The ruling came after the Dothan Eagle sought the personnel file of D.A. Smith Middle School teacher Melinda Fenn. She sued the Ozark city school system contending the file was private, and both sides asked McLauchlin for a ruling to clarify the law.
During court proceedings, it was disclosed that Fenn had been accused of disclosing a student's medical disability to other students in violation of the child's privacy rights.
Fenn's attorney said a decision on a possible appeal has not been made.
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