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Government

Supreme Court weighs how much public gets to know about teacher discipline

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Indiana law says public employee personnel records are not public - except that the “factual basis for a disciplinary action” must be shared. (Eric Castro/Flickr)

The Indiana Supreme Court is weighing how much a public school has to tell the public about why it chooses to discipline an employee.

A central Indiana school – Fishers High School – suspended one of its teachers, who was also the head football coach, for five days, without pay. An Indianapolis TV station, WTHR, made a public records request, trying to find out why the teacher had been suspended.

State law says employee personnel records are not public – except that the "factual basis for a disciplinary action" must be shared.

Attorney Adam Marshall, representing the TV station, said the school isn’t providing what the law says it should.

“We don’t know the date that it occurred," Marshall said. "We don’t know anything that Mr. Wimmer did or didn’t do that resulted in discipline.”

All the school will say is that the teacher violated a very broad policy – "not implementing instructions for classroom management strategies."

Attorney Liberty Roberts, representing the school, went back and forth with the justices over how specific the school needs to be.

“Failure to manage a classroom – there are many things that you could do to manage your classroom effectively. I would agree with that, your honor," Roberts said. "But the fact is, that’s what he did.”

A police report suggested the teacher physically grabbed a student. But the school won’t say anything – unless the Supreme Court makes it.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.