A Texas mother whose 13-year-old son allegedly faced vicious bullying is being asked to pay the school district $7,000 for a list of other such incidents.
Terrie Chumchal’s son had been bullied for years by other students, much of it because of his Asian-American heritage, the mother says. After one violent incident, he even came home with a ruptured eardrum.
And when Chumchal pressed Joshua Independent School District in Texas about the issue, she says she couldn’t get a straight answer.
“My son has been the victim of bullying and assaults for over two years,” Chumchal says. “When I have asked questions about these incidents, I receive inconsistent responses from different district administrators.”
And so she submitted a public records request for the number of bullying, incident, assault, police, and grievance reports filed with the district from 2015 to 2022. She wanted to know the number of reports and did not need to see their contents.
The response was shocking. The district’s lawyers told Chumchal it would cost $7,111.12 in public record fees to fulfill the request.
“Other families have publicly voiced the same concerns, so this is why I requested this information,” Chumchal explains. “We deserve to have insight as to how significant these issues are within our district. Don’t I have the right to know what’s going on in my own child’s public school?”
The Goldwater Institute is helping defend the Texas mother, filing an appeal with the Texas Attorney General’s Office over the matter.
“Parents shouldn’t have to pay thousands of dollars just to access simple information about what’s happening in their children’s schools,” Goldwater attorney Warren Norred said. “Texas law is clear on the matter—and I intend to fight this excessive public records fee and defend Terrie’s right to access public information.”
Texas law requires that charges for requests like Chumchal’s should be “reasonable.”
“A charge of $7,111.12 for the number of reports of bullying, assault, police, incident, and grievances between 2015 and 2022 is unreasonable,” the complaint said.
It’s what the Goldwater Institute sees a nationwide trend of schools keeping parents in the dark: “Whether it’s matters of school safety or questions about their children’s curriculum, public school districts should never keep parents in the dark.”