A school district is stonewalling conservative activists who are making simple open records requests, demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars before they will turn over records related to the district’s controversial bathroom and shower policies.

Jonathan Saenz with Texas Values sent a public information request to the Dripping Springs Independent School District in November seeking all communications related to the development of the district’s policies regarding bathrooms and showers. The district has been under fire from parents after adopting controversial policies allowing males to use bathrooms and showers designated for female students.

Now the district’s lawyers are telling Saenz and Texas Values that the requested information would cost an astronomical $268,645.72.

Bureaucrats often use various tactics to make acquiring public information tedious or impossible for citizens, such as dragging out responses until the last day they’re legally allowed, seeking Attorney General opinions to create further delay, and charging excessive fees for the requested information.

In this instance, Saenz issued a fairly narrow request for communications from Jan 1, 2016 to November between school officials and parents exclusively regarding bathroom and shower policies using specific keywords. The full text of the request can be viewed here.

The request would likely produce a significant number of responsive documents and a reasonable fee for assembling the documents would be unsurprising.

However, more than a quarter of a million dollars is not just out of the question ­– it is blatant stonewalling, made more obvious by the fact that the requests were responded to by a team of attorneys hired by the district.

The likely scenario is that the school district knows exactly who Jonathan Saenz and Texas Values are – and because district officials are worried about the consequences of handing Saenz the information he seeks, are either trying to buy time or dodge giving him the information entirely.

“Parents in Dripping Springs ISD feel betrayed and silenced because the District made a decision- without any parental input- that violates the privacy and dignity of their children,” said Nicole Hudgens, Outreach Director for Texas Values. “These parents deserve to be heard and the District must be held accountable for their actions. These parents, specifically those who have contacted our office, are concerned about the privacy and dignity of all children and we stand with them.”

Indeed, taxpayers in Dripping Springs ISD should ask themselves why their schools are fighting so hard to avoid transparency.

Greg Harrison

Gregory led the Central Texas Bureau for Empower Texans and Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he got involved politically through the Young Conservatives of Texas. He enjoys fishing, grilling, motorcycling, and of course, all things related to firearms.

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