Newly elected Board of Education member Michelle Duchow has filed a restraining order against Racine Unified to prevent the release of her personnel records to The Journal Times.
According to the injunction filed March 30 in Racine County Circuit Court, the district received an open records request for “any employment files related to Michelle Duchow, including but not limited to records of any disciplinary investigations.”
Duchow was employed by the district from 1998 to 2000 as a counselor and from 2012 to 2013 as a social worker.
RUSD spokesperson Stacy Tapp confirmed in an email that the newspaper generated the request.
“We received an open records request from the Journal Times several weeks ago requesting Board Candidate Michelle Duchow’s personnel file,” she wrote.
After conferring with legal counsel the decision was made to release the records, based in part on Duchow’s candidacy which made her a public figure, Tapp added.
The Journal Times made note of their request in a March 2 profile of Duchow in order to confirm her statement that she’d resigned from Unified in 2013 because of differences with new leaders in the Student Services department.
“Unified was unable to immediately provide records related to the resignation,” the story reads.
District officials notified Duchow March 7 of the decision to release her records, and Duchow on March 25 notified RUSD of her intent to file the injunction. In the reasons listed for her objection, Duchow posits:
- Her “reputational interests outweigh any interest the public may have to inspect or release the contents … because the Requested Records contain misleading and inaccurate information;”
- The newspaper requested records that are not subject to the state’s open records laws; and
- The records in question contain information about students’ IEP’s (Individualized Education Program) and are therefore confidential.
Email sent to The Journal Times about why they requested Duchow’s records and if they asked for other school board candidates’ employment records has not been returned.
Duchow did not return calls for comment.
By law, Racine Unified cannot release any records until the parties appear in court. Online records do not list a court date, only that the injunction was filed and the case has been assigned to a court official.
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