The Star Tribune is suing the Minneapolis Public Schools in an effort to force the release of data relating to student suspensions, school climate issues and district spending, among other concerns.
A lawsuit filed Monday in Hennepin County District Court alleges that the district has failed to deliver on requests dating to September 2015 and also seeks damages for what it describes as the district's "willful violation of the [Minnesota] Data Practices Act."
The information requested includes reports supplied to the newspaper by other districts, including results of school-by-school surveys that ask students how safe they feel in and around their schools and that gauge how committed teachers are to their respective buildings.
The school-level surveys, known as the 5 Essentials, have been provided to the Star Tribune by the St. Paul Public Schools, and formed the basis of a Feb. 16 story reporting widespread discontent among teachers in the state's second-largest district.
The lawsuit stems from four requests made by staff writer Alejandra Matos — each of them relating to "matters of significant public concern," the Star Tribune argues. Newspaper attorneys first got involved in March — at which point the district had provided incomplete data for one request and none for the other three. At that time, the Star Tribune asked the district to provide, in writing, a date by which the newspaper would receive a "complete, substantive response to each request."
Amy Moore, the district's attorney, replied in part: "It would be great if we had the luxury of staff who were dedicated to nothing but answering Star Tribune requests, but we try to focus our resources on the students in the classrooms."
On Monday, Superintendent Ed Graff, who joined the district after the requests were made, said that he plans to review the complaint, and that his intentions are to be transparent and responsive in such matters.