Project Baltimore Files MPIA Lawsuit Against Baltimore City Schools
BALTIMORE (WBFF)-- Project Baltimore is taking Baltimore City Public Schools to court over the withholding of information FOX45 believes taxpayers have a right to see. The papers were filed Wednesday morning in Circuit Court.
Last month, under Maryland’s Public Information Act, FOX45 requested the School District’s recent report following an internal investigation into allegations of grade changing. Not only was the request denied, North Avenue didn’t release anything.
“To just shut it down when so many people are interested in this subject is not acceptable,” said Lucy Dalglish, the Dean of the University of Maryland School of Journalism. Dalglish is also an attorney who has argued public information act cases.
“I always tell every reporter when you get a denial letter and they tell you you can’t have anything, that’s just crazy,” stated Dalglish.
Project Baltimore’s investigation into allegations of grade changing at Northwood Appold Community Academy II, or NACA II, started at the end of last school year when multiple teachers told us the grades they submitted were changed so some students could graduate. School leaders denied the allegations.
“What I did, was I put the grades in. If someone changed the grades, that was on them,” one teacher told us.
We obtained final grades – as submitted by a teacher - and report cards from NACA II that show many students who failed required courses, yet still graduated. Two days after our first report, City Schools opened an internal investigation.
Mayor Catherine Pugh called the allegations “very serious” and “disturbing.”
Governor Larry Hogan added, “This is certainly very concerning.”
At least one parent took her son out of the school. “I transferred him, the very next day, actually. The very next day,” explained Shanta Witworth.
“We have graduated kids who can’t read. Had a diploma in their hands that they couldn’t read,” said another teacher at the school.
After two months of investigating, City Schools determined the grade changing allegations against NACA II were “unsubstantiated”. But Project Baltimore wanted to know more and filed a freedom of information request to get the details about North Avenue’s investigation. How many people did they interview? What did they ask? How did they conclude the allegations were “unsubstantiated”? But North Avenue denied our request, stating that information is “contrary to the public’s interest.”
“If it’s true that grades have been changed and students who have not be met basic standards have graduated, then everybody should be very concerned about that,” concluded Dalglish. “There should be something they can give you. Taxpayers should know how their money is spent and if the people they entrust to do a job are doing it well.”
Baltimore City Schools now has 30 days to respond to our legal challenge.