CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A judge ruled earlier this month that the Charleston County School District was “grossly negligent” in failing to preserve video that allegedly showed attacks on a student despite Freedom of Information Act requests to produce them.
Charleston attorneys Mark Peper and David Aylor filed a lawsuit against the district after a woman said her child was attacked and injured at Liberty Hill Academy in multiple incidents in December 2017 and January 2018 and was unable to obtain videos believed to have shown the attacks.
The suit states that not only did the school district fail to respond to multiple FOIA requests that sought the videos, but that the videos were allowed to be deleted in violation of the district’s own retention policy. The suit stated attorneys for the mother notified the district on Jan. 23, 2018, that they would be requesting copies of the video and notified the district to preserve that video. The suit also states that on Sept. 20, 2018, a district representative said “too much time” had elapsed between the request and the date, adding, “there is no video for this matter.”
The judge ruled against CCSD, stating the district had an obligation to save those videos and turn them over. He ordered district officials to try to recover the deleted videos.
The Charleston County School District declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The school district has also not responded to a March FOIA request from Live 5 News that involved a list of settlements the district has paid out in recent years.
“Perception is reality,” CCSD School Board Member Michael Miller said. “When you and others ask for information from the school district and that information is not provided in a timely manner, it comes across as if the district has something to hide. It comes across as if the district is not willing to provide information to the public that they have the right to have and right to see.”
By law, the district had 35 days to produce the records. It has now been more than 140 days.