By JOHN T. WARD
The New Jersey Government Records Council earlier this week ordered the Red Bank Charter School to release demographic data it failed to provide to a borough resident under an Open Public Records Act request.
The state agency, acting on a complaint filed by Judy DeHaven, found on Tuesday that the school had unlawfully withheld data showing the breakdown of the student population by grade, gender, race, ethnicity and other factors.
In early March, according to the GRC’s findings, DeHaven, a mother of two children in the borough public schools, asked the charter school for data showing a breakdown of the student population by grade, gender, race, eligibility for reduced-price lunches and other indicators of economic status. The school is required to provide the information annually to the local school district, under a 2007 court agreement.
The school responded by denying part of DeHaven’s request, and stating that it would need an extension of the seven-business-days OPRA response deadline to comply with the remaining portion, according to the GRC chronology. Afterward, however, the school did not respond to DeHaven’s inquiries, the record indicates.
The school also failed to respond to the GRC’s inquiries after early June, according to the findings.
On Tuesday, the records council found charter school had failed to comply with the OPRA requirements and “unlawfully denied access” to the records DeHaven sought. It ordered the school to provide the information within five days, unless it files an appeal of decision.
Here are the GRC’s findings: DeHaven v RBCS GRC Findings 072517
And here is the agency’s order to the charter school: DeHaven v RBCS Interim Order 072517
The charter school responded to a redbankgreen request for comment with a prepared statement Friday afternoon:
We fully intend to comply with Judy DeHaven’s request for information to the extent the law allows and plan to request an extension from the Government Records Council. Red Bank Charter School has an excellent track record of timely replies to Judy’s numerous requests for information over the last three years. In this one limited case, it was a simple oversight given the many demands that arise at the end of the school year.
DeHaven and her husband, Wayne Woolley, are founding members of Fair Schools Red Bank, which alleges in separate actions that the borough school district is the “most segregated” in the state because of the charter school’s admissions practices. Charter school officials, however, contend the 200-student K-through-8 has a diverse student population that reflects the borough’s school-aged population.
Last November, Fair Schools Red Bank and the Latino Coalition of New Jersey filed a joint complaint with the civil rights division of the federal Department of Education asking it to “investigate and ultimately remedy” enrollment and funding practices at charter school that they claim result in discrimination. That request is pending.
Separately, in March of this year, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said it had joined with the two groups to appeal the state Department of Education’s decision to allow the 19-year-old school to operate for at least another five years.