A Texas school district is demanding parents fork over more than $7,000 for public records about bullying in the district.
The Joshua Independent School District, which sits just south of Fort Worth, demanded that mom Terrie Chumchal pay the exorbitant sum when she tried to get to the bottom of the district’s bullying problem.
For two years, Chumchal’s son, who is now in eighth grade, was bullied relentlessly both verbally and physically, according to his family. A lot of the bullying focused on his Korean American heritage, and one assault even left the young boy with a ruptured eardrum, they said.
Last month, Chumchal filed a public records request with the school district for the number of bullying, incident, assault, police, and grievance reports filed in Joshua Independent between 2015 and 2022. Lawyers for the district responded that this information would cost a whopping $7,111.12.
The district claimed that it will have to manually retrieve all 6,636 pages of bullying and other incident reports and manually redact all confidential information since it does not have any “existing documents reflecting a total number” or “the resources to run a search for reports automatically.”
However, the mom simply wanted to find out the number of bullying reports and was not seeking to view the content of the reports, so redactions are unnecessary, her attorney argued.
Last week, Chumchal’s attorney Warren Norred filed an appeal with the Texas Attorney General’s Office challenging the district’s high fee. Norred is volunteering his services with the conservative Goldwater Institute, which is helping the family challenge the district’s fee.
“Parents shouldn’t have to pay thousands of dollars just to access simple information about what’s happening in their children’s schools,” Norred said.
“Texas law is clear on the matter — and I intend to fight this excessive public records fee and defend Terrie’s right to access public information,” the attorney added.
The mom said the ordeal has taken a toll on her family, but she is hopeful.
“When you start seeing the pattern here, it appears the district is discouraging people from asking for information. If the sort of cruel, horrific bullying that my son has been a victim of is a widespread issue, don’t parents deserve to know about it?” Chumchal told The Daily Wire.
“Our experience has been painful and stressful for our family. I hope my sharing will strengthen others to stand up and fight for their rights. Retaliation is real, and that’s what keeps parents silent. But I am hopeful that by standing up, things can change, and other children and families won’t have to suffer,” the mom said.
Other districts have charged parents similarly eye-popping amounts of money for public records reports.
In August, the nearby Fort Worth Independent School District charged parents nearly $1,300 to see the public school district’s K-12 curriculum book lists. One mom, who is an attorney, filed a complaint over the charge.
Similarly, a Rhode Island mom was told by her kindergarten daughter’s school district that the public records she requested on the curriculum would cost $74,000. She was sued by the largest teachers’ union in the country, which sought to block her numerous requests for public records.
Over the last two years, frustrated parents across the country have gone head-to-head with public school districts on a litany of issues, including inappropriate curriculum content and school safety, sometimes giving school boards a piece of their mind at school board meetings.
Attorneys for the Joshua Independent School District responded to a request for comment by pointing to the district’s claim that it must “manually retrieve all potentially responsive reports, then review, and redact confidential information.”