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CHARLESTON -- The Edgar County Watchdogs' interpretation of state statutes is that the Charleston school district destroyed public records when it shredded a class project that was conducted by a substitute teacher who was subsequently arrested on an out of state warrant. 

Kirk Allen, co-founder of this local government watchdog group, clarified this view following coverage in the JG-TC of the contention between the district and the Edgar County Watchdogs.

The contention pertains to school officials shredding student photos and questionnaires that were part of a class project that was assigned by substitute teacher Adrian Rivas, 39, prior to his Feb. 9 arrest on a Texas warrant in a child indecency case.

School board President Jason Coe has said that Rivas began this sociology class project in January with the permission of high school Principal Trevor Doughty. Coe has said some parents subsequently voiced concerns about Rivas gathering student photos and questionnaires for this project, so the principal obtained these items and shredded them at the request of concerned parents. He has said the shredding took place before the district found out that charges had been filed against Rivas in Texas and a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Watchdogs co-founder Allen has said that he does not believe the photos and questionnaires were student records. Allen has said he believes that those items were public records that were destroyed without proper authority.

Allen said on Tuesday that class projects and homework assignments are not considered to be student records under the Illinois School Student Records Act if those materials are collected at the direction of the school. However, Allen said he believes that the materials Rivas collected were not in that category because the school only gave permission for the photos, not the questionnaire papers, to be part of Rivas' project.

"That statute does not apply and those records are not subject to that statute but are subject to the Local Records Act because there were records in their possession and created in the performance of their job," Allen said.

Coe said on Tuesday that the principal did authorize Rivas to collect photos, but not questionnaires. Nevertheless, Coe said that the district considers the photos and the questionnaires to have been part of a class project. He said the district's interpretation of the Student Record Act and the Local Records Act is that materials such as class projects and homework assignments are not considered to be public records.


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