SPED:NPS public-records-request

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This page describes exchanges with Newton's City Solicitor requesting public records.
An appeal was made to the state which agreed with The City Solicitor that they have responded appropriately.

See the appeal letter here: Supervisor of Records letter
The state ruling here:
See: Ruling from State

The following exchange describes public records requests made to the Law Department on matter related to education litigation. The Secretary of State's office has agreed to review the matter under case number SPR13/111

February 13 Parent to City
Law Department
City of Newton
1000 Commonwealth Ave
Newton, MA

Re: Public Records Request
To Whom this may Concern:
Pursuant to the state Freedom of Information Act, G.L.M. c.66, sec. 10(a) I hereby request copies of:

Any and all reports, e-mails, notes, or other records, paper or electronic, filed, received or written by any employees of the Law Department or City Solicitor’s office since September 1, 2011, related to any of the following:

1 – Funding of the City Solicitor’s office in regards to work with Newton Public Schools and agreements or contracts defining representation of Newton Public Schools.
2 – Special education cases coming forward because of the breakdown in the state in funding social services programs for families.
3 – Mission or purpose of the City Solicitor’s office in regards to work on education law.
4 – Goals or Outcomes of the City Solicitor’s office as defined in the 2013 Budget in regards to education-related litigation including but not limited to:

Outcome #3: Reduced education‐related litigation
Strategy #1. Work with administrators and special educators
Regular training Quarterly
Assign staff members to answer daily education questions June 2012

Strategy #2. Understand recent changes in education law
Attend pertinent seminars Quarterly
Communicate changes in law to clients Ongoing
Network with other education law attorneys Monthly

I understand that there is a fee for copies. Could you please let me know what the anticipated charge will be before copying the documents?

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 10 business days, as the statute requires.

February 14 City to Parent
Response: Records request 2-13

February 20 Parent to City
Dear Solicitor Kahn,
I got your reply to my public records request. Thanks for getting back to me.
I can't tell if you addressed all the specific elements of my request. To help clarify what is available, there are two new requests attached and pasted below; one specific and one general. It may take time to get these requests in to a form which yields useful information so please bear with me. If you can tell me what kinds of records you have available and are willing to share, that may save time.
My goal is to understand why and to what purpose your office advocates against Newton families. Your advocacy can cause suffering and hardship for families and children. My intention is to understand the rationale, scope and effect of your work in that regard. Newton would benefit from collaboration instead of confrontation. To get there, we need to understand why we use City personnel to advocate against families and we should track the effects of that work.
Let me know if you have any comments or records which shed light on that.
--- General
Any and all reports, e-mails, notes, or other records, paper or electronic, filed, received or written by any employees of the Law Department or City Solicitor’s office since September 1, 2011, related to any of the following:
Education or education law
--- Specific
Any and all reports, e-mails, notes, or other records, paper or electronic, filed, received or written by any employees of the Law Department or City Solicitor’s office since September 1, 2011, related to any of the following:
Seminars or other events on education law; including but not limited to invitations, agendas, subjects, hand outs, and any communication before during or after.
Networking or communication with other education law attorneys

February 22 Parent to City
Pursuant to the state Freedom of Information Act, G.L.M. c.66, sec. 10(a) I hereby request copies of:
Any and all reports, e-mails, notes, or other records, paper or electronic, filed, received or written by any employees of the Law Department or City Solicitor’s office since September 1, 2011, related to any of the following (FYI this request is adapted from page 22 of the budget report found here: Budget Reports

  • Training of Newton Public Schools (NPS) staff, including training materials and research related to training
  • Summer projects or other training activities which list things on which to refresh principals and assistant principals
  • Requests for training by NPS staff
  • Communications related to possible trainers or related to choosing trainers and subjects



February 28 City to Parent: Newton Response 2-20


March 1 Parent to City
Dear Solicitor Kahn,
re: Your letter to me dated February 28
Thanks for your quick reply and patience in addressing my request for information.
On your point 2 I will refine my request for any records related to education or education law by saying:
Any records written by or addressed to the law department or its employees; or clients of the law department related to education or education law since January 1, 2012.
On your point 3 documents related to seminars or other events on education law
I'm thrilled that I found something! Please provide the records. If you would like a check for $196.92 in advance let me know who to address it to and where to send it. I trust you will adhere to copyright restrictions so please give citations of any records which cannot be shared for that reason.
re: your letter to me dated February 14 On your request to clarify and narrow documents related "special education cases coming forward because of a break down in state funding in social services programs for families". I'm quoting you from last spring and trying to understand what you are referring to. What are the options to clarify and narrow that request?

March 28 City to Parent March 28

April 2 Parent to City
Dear Ms Kahn,
I received your letter date March 28, re: Further Response to Public Records Requests Dated February 20 and 23, 2013.

re: Request No. 3
I am not requesting the entire works. I am requesting full citations for all of the records including title, author, publication date, copy right holder. I also request any other information available under the Fair Use Doctrine.


April 4 from City to Parent via e-mail
Mr. Smith,
In response to the below, there is no document with citations etc. and the City is not required to develop documents in response to a public records request. I thought I made clear that the City does not believe any of the materical is available under the Fair Use Doctrine.
-Donnalyn Kahn
City Solicitor


April 4 Second response from City to Parent April

April 4 Parent to City

In response to the below, please produce the notice of copyright, the name of the work, the owner of the copyright and the date of copyright. I'm not an attorney but I believe this information is required to be present on copyrighted material and therefore does not require the law department to develop new documents. I also believe that you are free to reproduce the copyright information.
My records request (see attached Public-Records-Law_Department-2-20-2013-specific.doc) also asked for records related to invitations, agendas and any communication. Please produce any payment records, notice of the seminar, invitations, registration information, confirmation of attendance, or calendar records.
In short, I want to know what seminars the attorneys attended.
FYI I want to reduce the need for litigation between familes and the law department. So I'm looking any information which explains why this litigation happens, the law department's goals related to litigation and the issues which cause litigation. I appreciate any information on that which you are willing to share.

April 4 City to parent

Mr. Smith,

At present I have responded to your numerous document requests. There should be nothing outstanding (I completed the response to your April 2 request which was mailed out today).
While you may not agree with my analysis, I will not be producing copyrighted materials for you. You continue to send e-mails to the general law department e-mail address claiming that there are outstanding requests. I do not believe there are.
-Donnalyn Kahn
City Solicitor

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