Local radio stations suing Grand Island Public Schools

Grand Island Public Schools faces a lawsuit accusing it of violating public records laws.
Grand Island Public Schools faces a lawsuit accusing it of violating public records laws.(MGN)
Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 4:39 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 25, 2022 at 5:26 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - A group of local radio stations is suing Grand Island Public Schools asking for more information about issues brought up when the district fired its boy’s soccer coach.

Legacy Communications operates seven local radio stations in the Grand Island area under the brand GI Family Radio. The group includes radio station KRGI.

Legacy filed suit Monday in Hall County District Court against GIPS and Superintendent Dr. Tawana Grover for “failure to respond to requests made under the Nebraska Public Records Statutes.”

In it’s lawsuit Legacy points to a state law which requires political subdivisions to respond within four days after a request for public records. The subdivision does not necessarily have to produce the records, but is required to provide an estimate of the cost of the records or provide a legal basis for denying the records or an explanation of why the request cannot be granted within four days and an estimate of when the records could be provided.

The suit argues that the district failed to do any of those things for requests made April 15 and April 18 for information on a number of subjects including the Panorama Survey. In a press release, the radio group said that Grover had acknowledged receipt of the April 15 request, but had not responded to either.

In regard to it’s lawsuit against the school district, GI Family Radio CEO Alan Usher said in part, “It is unfortunate Dr. Grover and GIPS are not living up to the promise made on April 15 to be ‘collaborative and forthright,’ but instead are refusing to comply with the law to produce public records.”

Late Monday afternoon Grand Island Public Schools issued this statement through it’s Lincoln attorney Justin Knight: “Grand Island Public Schools was surprised to learn today that Grand Island Family Radio allegedly filed suit against GIPS over public records requests. By state statute, GIPS has four business days to respond to any public records request. Grand Island Family Radio submitted public records requests on April 15th and April 18th. GIPS, through its legal counsel, timely responded to both records requests on April 21st, with nearly 250 pages of responsive documents. Although GIPS has not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit, GIPS is confident that it has fully complied with its obligations under the public records laws.”

Grand Island Public Schools fired varsity boys soccer coach Jeremy Jensen April 14 for releasing images of survey results from students in the district via Facebook. Those images depicted a bad culture in the district and relayed that teachers were leaving the district at an alarming rate.

At a press conference last week, Grover said Jensen’s release of the information violated the privacy of the students who participated in the survey. Grover did not directly respond to the culture or teacher retention concerns other than to say they were willing to talk with the public about the school district and that the district was experiencing the same retention issues that other schools across the country face.

In a letter to parents last week Grover referred to a meeting between Jensen and GIPS school board president Lisa Albers and board vice-president Carlos Barcenas. Jensen confirmed to Local4 Monday that the meeting took place April 20, but declined further comment. Local4 has asked GIPS to provide information about the meeting, but as of late Monday the district had not responded.

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