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Court Declines Suit on Teacher's Records

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WASHINGTON--The U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to review a federal appellate ruling that will force a Texas school district to disclose a teacher's academic records to the public.

The suit, Klein Independent School District v. Mattox (Case No. 87-1417), stemmed from a district resident's request for a copy of the college transcript of the teacher, Rebecca J. Holt.

The district responded by asking the state attorney general to decide whether the disclosure was required under the state's Open Records Act or prohibited by the federal Family Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, commonly known as the Buckley Amendment.

The attorney general ruled that the school officials had to provide the resident with the transcript. The officials then filed suit against the state in federal district court, arguing that the Texas law was superseded by the federal law, which bars the disclosure of a student's records without his or his parents' consent.

The district court held that because the teacher had never been a student in the district, the Buckley Amendment did not protect her right to privacy, a ruling that was upheld by a federal appeals court last October.

In other action last week, the Court:

  • Heard arguments in a case that involves a federal auditor's determination that the state of Massachusetts improperly used $11.3 million in Medicaid funds to provide special-education services to the mentally retarded.

The procedural issue before the court was the propriety of a federal district judge's order disallowing the audit finding. The Reagan Administration argued that that matter should have been resolved by the U.S. Claims Court, and not the district court.

The Justices are expected to announce their decision in the case, Bowen v. Massachusetts (Nos. 87-712 and -929), by late June.

  • Heard arguments in U.S. Catholic Conference v. Abortion Rights Mobilization Inc. (No. 87-416), a case challenging the Roman Catholic Church's tax-exempt status.

The Court has been asked to decide whether advocates for the right to an abortion have standing to sue in federal court to have the church's status revoked. The advocates contend that the church's anti-abortion activities violate Internal Revenue Service regulations for tax-exempt groups.

Church officials and the Administration have countered that, because the pro-abortion group's constitutional rights have not been violated by the church, they have no right to sue. A decision in the case is expected by late June.

  • Let stand a decision by the Indiana Court of Appeals that requires nonunion teachers in the New Prairie school district to pay representation fees in lieu of union dues.

The teachers who filed the suit, Colanese v. New Prairie Classroom Teachers Association (No. 87-854), unsuccessfully argued that more than 90 percent of their fees, which were set at $225 in the 1982-83 school year, were being used to subsidize political activities in violation of their First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

  • Invited the Wisconsin affiliate of the National Education Association to file a brief in a case brought against it by an employee who claims he was denied a promotion on the basis of his sex.

The Court's action in McQuillen v. Wisconsin Education Association Council (No. 87-999) was unusual because the Justices said last month that they would not hear the case, which was decided by lower courts in the union's favor. Their request for a new brief indicates that they may vote to reverse themselves and grant the employee's motion for a rehearing.--TM

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