County parents will be able to disseminate previously halted legal invoices

Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Richard Gardiner granted in part and denied in part a Fairfax County School Board’s (FCSB) request for a preliminary injunction against two county parents November 16. 

According to court documents, Gardiner granted the following parts of the injunction: “Defendants shall not publish the bank account numbers, Tax ID numbers, and Federal ID numbers contained within the records provided to them by Plaintiff that are the subject of this lawsuit.”

All other parts of the motion were denied. 

FCSB filed the motion for this injunction against Callie Oettinger and Debra Tisler in October after Tisler received and Oettinger posted the district’s legal invoices on her website, specialeducationaction.com. FCSB released these invoices to Tisler in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. 

The court also withdrew a September order that prevented the mothers from disseminating the invoices and the information in them.  

“Bottom line it was a win for [the] First Amendment, and my hope is that this will encourage other parents to stand up and not to be afraid of the school system. When you see something wrong, you should stand up and say something. These are our kids. If you don’t fight for your kid who will?” Oettinger said. 

Gardiner said that the school board’s actions showed “about as much a prior restraint as there ever could be.” The court also noted that the district’s argument that the information in the invoices were secret were “simply not relevant” and “almost frivolous.” 

“This is an important victory against the bullying tactics of school bureaucrats who have resorted to intimidation and harassment of parents who just want to do what’s best for their children,” Timothy Sandefur, an attorney from Goldwater Institute representing the pair, said in the organization’s press release. 

According to a timeline posted on specialeducationaction.com, Tisler requested the released invoices following breaches of student privacy. 

And on October 6, ​​the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) issued a Notice of Complaint stating it opened an investigation into Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) after receiving a complaint alleging that FCPS “violated federal and state laws and regulations governing special education programs,” according to the notice.

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