School charges mom $77,000 to access emails about her son

National/World News
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GOODRICH, Mich. — A mother said she was given a $77,000 price tag when she tried to get information from her son’s school. She said the school is essentially refusing to honor a request she has every legal right to make.

The controversy surrounds emails regarding the woman’s son, who has an intellectual disability, according to WNEM.

When the woman got the bill, she didn’t believe it. Now she has thought about what the school wants to charge her and she has hired an attorney.

For $77,000, you can buy some pretty nice stuff such as a used convertible Bentley Continental GT or a used helicopter and flying lessons.

According to Sherri Smith, you can also buy access to her son’s school records.

“It’s just disgusting they would ask that from parents,” Smith said. “I expected a nominal fee in exchange for some emails.”

Smith said she filed a Freedom of Information Act request pertaining to her special needs son. She said all she wanted was a year’s worth of email correspondence instead of a nominal fee.

Smith said she got the outrageous charge of more than $77,000.

“I do consider this flat-out a denial,” Smith said.

She said the astronomical charge is making her wonder what the district might be hiding.

“In fact, I believe that by them throwing up a brick wall it makes me question more, so why can’t I have those emails,” Smith said.

According to the letter, the Goodrich schools superintendent said it would take the district two years and more than 4,500 hours at a rate of $77,780 to get those emails.

“I think Goodrich schools should be ashamed of themselves for even asking for this amount of money,” said Phil Ellison, Smith’s attorney.

Ellison said he’s not buying the district’s explanation of charges.

“Anyone of us has a year’s worth of emails in our inbox and can select all and forward it and be done with the request in 10 minutes worth of work,” Ellison said.

Ellison also said the Freedom of Information Act laws changed July 1. The biggest change has to do with people being charged too much money such as in Smith’s case, he said.

WNEM wanted some answers from the Goodrich school district so it called and talked to trustee Timothy Zirnhelt. He said he does not agree with the superintendent.

“It seems a bit high,” he said.

So far, there is no indication the district will back away from the charges. As for Smith, she said she wants the information, but refuses to pay tens of thousands of dollars.

“No matter how you look at this, it does not make sense,” she said.

Smith’s attorney said one of the reasons he’s so outraged is that under Ferpa law, parents have a right to any information pertaining to their child’s school record at little to no cost.

A new request was filed Wednesday when the law changed.

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