Crestwood school officials blocked the release of records Monday that may shed light on why the Red Devils football team was abruptly suspended just before its Sept. 29 game.
The district formally rejected the Record-Courier’s Oct. 12 request for public records pertaining to a now closed internal investigation of the football team, claiming any records are not releasable under federal law. Public records experts interviewed Monday disagree with Crestwood’s legal interpretation.
The district did release redacted personnel files for eight football coaches as requested. Those documents did not shed any light on what prompted an eventual 2-game suspension. Nor were there any disciplinary notices, which was part of the request.
In a letter from Treasurer Jill Rowe, the district denied “in its entirety” the release of any additional records.
“Specifically, the request is denied as it seeks confidential investigative records and the disclosure of information provided by Board employees to whom confidentiality was reasonably promised,” Rowe wrote. ”... In addition, the request is denied because it seeks personally identifiable information regarding students attending public schools.”
Mantua police are currently looking into what happened for a second time after Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci asked for additional information before he decides if criminal charges are warranted. Mantua Police Chief Harry Buchert has not returned calls from the Record-Courier since Vigluicci sent the case back to his department last week.
The Record-Courier disagrees with Crestwood’s decision, General Manager and Editor Michael Shearer said.
“We believe Crestwood is clearly wrong in its interpretation of the law, nor is it a police agency with confidential investigatory records,” he said. “We specifically noted in our request that we did not seek any identifiable student information and understood documents would likely need to redacted in part.”
Attorney David Marburger, an expert in public records law, said Crestwood appears to be improperly relying on a law governing confidential law enforcement records, which allows police agencies to keep information confidential during an ongoing investigation.