School District Employee Sues To Keep Records Private In Sexual Harassment Case
FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — A Fayetteville School District employee who accused the former superintendent of sexual harassment is suing to keep her personnel records from becoming public.
Suzanne Clark, the woman’s lawyer, filed a complaint Wednesday (July 11) in Washington County Circuit Court calling the potential release of the documents an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
Clark argued that the records deal with the woman’s role as a victim of sexual harassment, and not her discipline or termination while working for the district.
“The records … contain graphic text messages that are exceptionally personal in nature,” Clark wrote in the complaint.
“Such information would subject the plaintiff and her family to embarrassment, harassment, and could impact her employment and relationships with friends.”
Clark also cited a 1981 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling which found that a substantial individual privacy interest outweighs the public’s interest when the records reveal “intimate details of a person’s life.”
Clark declined to comment Friday (July 13). A district spokesman also declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.
After receiving several Freedom of Information Act requests regarding the district’s investigation of Dr. Matthew Wendt, school officials determined the woman’s personnel file was a “job performance record” and therefore releasable, according to Clark’s complaint.
The woman asked for an opinion from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who later affirmed the district’s decision to disclose the records.
However, Rutledge noted that the woman’s “name should be redacted as a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
In March, the woman told district officials Wendt was harassing her. She later provided inappropriate text messages and voice recordings allegedly from Wendt as evidence.
The Fayetteville School Board fired Wendt last month, but the district still owes him more than $48,000 in accrued personal, sick and vacation time.