This story is based on public records. Records that Eye purchased. The only time in my life – most of which has been spent in the newspaper business – that we were required to purchase information the public is entitled to know.
First, a few observations.
The fact that we had to pay for it shows another reason for the demise of the newspaper business.
There are many reasons, but one is that they have allowed government to become their master.
A free and responsible press can serve the public by reporting the news. It does not serve the public by trying to overthrow a fair election for partisan reasons, as a large segment of the media is trying to do currently.
It does so by reporting the news with as little bias as possible.
To do that, the government must ensure meetings and records are public, unless there is reason for them not to be.
We asked the public school system for some information that a few years ago would have been provided in timely fashion, and the idea of charging a reporter for it would have been unthinkable.
Today, it is routine and the local media have allowed it to happen.
So, here is the information Eye on Jacksonville obtained this week at a cost of $107.60:
“After speaking with our Professional Standards department, the requested records will not be available for at least a month. The extensiveness of the request and the availability of staff are the main factors that contribute to their timeline. Please let me know if you have any questions. “
That’s it. Information requested in May, which should be readily available, will be provided – perhaps – in September.
What we asked for was information about Jacksonville public schoolteachers who have been accused of having sex with students. There has been a rash of this type of conduct throughout the nation in recent years. By one count, there have been at least 50 in Florida this year.
It may be that there have been none in Jacksonville. We just don’t know.
But there is a shocking lack of interest in the subject among School Board members and the local media.
We posted the question to one School Board member, to see if she knew or had asked, or would ask. (We wanted to know if she also would be required to pay to get the information.)
She merely referred the question as a public records request to the administration, which we already had done.
• We are being billed for five hours of work. Why would it take more than a month to do five hours of work?
• How could an organization the size of the school system not know if its employees were being accused of committing crimes?
• Why wouldn’t its managers (board members) be interested enough to ask? Is the new superintendent interested in finding out? Would she be charged $107.62 if she asked?
The quest continues. Eye will publish whatever information we can get, if and when we get it.