Public Records To Remain Open in Austin, TX

Monday, April 27, 2009

Watchdog journalists are fighting the state legislature in Austin, TX. A bill by Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, would keep confidential information such as home addresses and cell phone numbers for public school teachers and employees. But journalists and open records advocates object to what they say is a deal breaker — removing the days and months of birth dates from open records.

Birth dates are used to differentiate common names from one another when searching criminal records. Obstruction of these dates could lead to a false accusations or exoneration. All teachers are required to undergo criminal background checks in Texas but journalists and open records activists believe in checks and balances when it comes to public school teachers.

"We've seen time and time again where school districts are supposed to run criminal background checks, and watchdog groups and journalists are the ones that point out loopholes in the system. This bill takes that watchdog role away," Elkins said.
Thursday's bill is one of several efforts in the Legislature to keep birth dates and other information about public employees private.


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