In an unpublished case, Kalamazoo Transportation Association v Kalamazoo Public Schools, the Michigan Court of Appeals sent a FOIA action back to the trial court for further proceedings.
The union submitted a FOIA request to the School District for bus discipline‑referral forms, which were filled out by bus drivers to document student misconduct. The union alleged that the forms were used as evidence of bus drivers’ job responsibilities and working conditions. Even after the union stipulated that information directly related to students could be redacted from the forms, the School District denied the FOIA request on the basis of the Family Educational Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The trial court upheld the School District’s decision, finding that the FOIA exemption used by the School District exempted the “entire document” requested.
The appellate court disagreed. It held that the FOIA requires public bodies to separate exempt and non‑exempt materials, to the extent practicable, and produce the non‑exempt materials. Under FERPA, an education record only exists where an educational entity maintains a record that directly relates to a student. The court reasoned that, if personally‑identifiable student information is removed from the education record, it ceases to be an education record exempt from disclosure under FERPA. The court remanded the matter to the trial court to determine whether students were still identifiable even with the proposed redactions.
The opinion is accessible here.