Looking for transparency from Howard Co. Schools

Posted at 6:28 PM, Mar 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-14 18:28:10-04

It is a lack of transparency and integrity, supporters of House Bill 1105 said, that has led them to this point; testifying in front of the Ways and Means Committee Monday morning.

Delegate Warren Miller said the goal is to model the communication in Howard County after the other counties that are doing well.

"They have openness and transparency in their dealings and they're willing to share things that should be public," Miller told ABC2.

"I believe it's a pattern and practice of Howard County denying public records to citizens and I'm not sure why," Barb Krupriarz, a mother of a special needs child, said.

Krupriarz said the county did an audit of special education, to look into what was being done well and what was not. She said she and the rest of the Special Education Citizens Advisory wanted access to it but their public information act request was denied.

That is when Krupriarz said she filed a circuit court complaint and said she still got nowhere.

"In the process I learned a valuable but brutal lesson about going against a school system that has unlimited budget," she said.

Krupriarz is not the only mother supporting this bill. Right by her side is Christine McComas, whose daughter Grace took her own life in 2012 after repeated cyberbullying attacks.

McComas said she is still looking for more information from her daughter's school records.

"What was sent first in 2012 had nothing to do with - they were just attendance reports and immunization records and things like that, but nothing that had to do with the struggle that the school knew about for the entire last year of her life that we were not able to get appropriate help with," McComas said.

McComas took time off to focus on passing Grace's Law, but has now shifted her focus back to the improving access to public information.

Of course it is not just Krupriarz or McComas that have had trouble getting answers from the Howard County school system.

While looking into complaints about mold at a number of schools, starting with Glenwood Middle School, the ABC2 investigative team often waited weeks for responses.

"This bill is going to force the newly created state ombudsman for public information to go back and look at how Howard County Public Schools has dealt with these requests," Miller said.

A Howard County Public Schools spokesman released a brief statement that reads,

"We're happy to work with the ombudsman to make sure we follow the law and are providing the information the public needs."

Stay with ABC2 News as this story continues to develop.

Download the ABC2 News app for the iPhone, Kindleand Android.