Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) filed a lawsuit late yesterday in Supreme Court, New York County against the Department of Education of the City of New York, seeking an order compelling the Department of Education to release certain records as required by the New York State Freedom of Information Law and the Department of Education Chancellor’s Regulation D-110. In addition to seeking the production of documents under outstanding Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, the lawsuit alleges a pattern or practice of illegal conduct on the part of the Department of Education in failing to comply with open access laws that require government agencies to make records available to the public.
Over the past few years, AFC has served seven FOIL requests upon the Department of Education, including one joint request with AALDEF, but is still waiting for the vast majority of documents from the Department of Education in response to these requests, despite the clear legal requirements to produce the documents in a reasonable amount of time.
The outstanding FOIL requests seek data related to, among other information, students whose primary language is not English (often referred to as English Language Learners) in New York City schools and students with disabilities. “Transparency is essential to accountability. The Department of Education cannot claim to be accountable to the public if it withholds basic information from the public eye,” emphasized Rebecca Shore, Director of Litigation at AFC.
In response to AFC and AALDEF’s requests, the Department of Education routinely failed to comply with statutory deadlines, gave themselves year-long extensions, failed to produce requested documents, and ultimately ignored significant components of the requests. “Despite the guidelines established by state law and the Department of Education’s own regulations, as well as a clear intent by the Legislature that seeks to promote governmental transparency, the Department of Education has flouted its obligations under FOIL. We filed this petition to ensure that the Department of Education complies with the law,” explained Thomas L. Mariadason, a staff attorney at AALDEF.