The sun shines on our schools

Sunshine Week is sponsored annually by the American Society of Newspapers to promote the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants in this observance usually include the news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know. This year’s theme was “Fighting for Transparency and Freedom of Information.”

Our Morning Journal reporters are given the assignment each year to request public records from various governmental entities.

This year, because of the national attention being focused on sexual assault and misconduct in the #MeToo movement, we decided to see how well our Columbiana County public schools were handling sexual misconduct.

We asked our local school districts if they had an anti-sexual harassment/misconduct policy and whether it was prominently displayed in each school. We also asked if any employees had been disciplined or dismissed for violating the anti-sexual harassment policy. If any had, we asked to see the personnel files of those employees. Even though some may be surprised to learn this, personnel files of any public employee are public records covered by the Ohio open records law. For the most part, our local school officials were very compliant with our records and information requests. The results of these quests begin on Page 1 of today’s Journal.

The information we received also shows that our school districts are doing a good job of handling incidents of sexual misconduct and protecting our children who we entrust to their care every school day.

You, as a member of the public have a right to know what is going on in your government and in your public schools. That’s what Sunshine Week is all about — making sure government officials are allowing access to public records and educating the public about its right to know.

We take our role in this important democratic process very seriously and so should you.