Greg Adams, president of the Little Rock School Board, has sent me a copy of his response to attorney and state Rep. John Walker about a directive issued by Little Rock School Superintendent Dexter Suggs on Walker’s access to Little Rock School District offices.
Walker said Suggs had effectively banned him from school buildings by requiring him to make an appointment to be given access to school offices; to sign in at security and to be escorted to offices. He told Walker he would not be able to “free roam” through offices. Walker’s frequent appearance at school facilities, often with Freedom of Information Act requests at the ready, has long bugged school officials.
Walker wanted a School Board discussion on Suggs’ directive. Adams said he didn’t see it as a policy question. His note to Walker:
This is my perspective of the situation:
Administrators throughout the district have the responsibility for establishing and enforcing protocols for visitors and this includes the district offices and Dr. Suggs. It is an administrator’s responsibility to protect the practical and perceived security of district staff and the purpose, focus and integrity of the work for which they were hired in service to our students. Having sign-in procedures and limitations of access to work spaces depending on the nature of a visit and the arrangements with and expectations of staff seems a common and reasonable practice in private business, government offices and schools. For example, I have been in two different LRSD schools in the past week. At each visit I signed a visitor log and visited only the parts of the building where it was agreed upon I had business. At one school, I had a staff escort for my visit. This did not seem unreasonable to me in any way even as a board member. While it is important that visitor policies be applied consistently and fairly, I would also expect an administrator to utilize some flexibility as to how they are enforced based on special circumstances in service of staff and their work.
This matter does not rise to the level of a policy concern and so would be inappropriate to place on the board’s agenda.
UPDATE: Here’s what John Walker said in response:
I renew my request that the Board consider this matter for placement on the Agenda for public discussion. Your letter implies that Ms. Springer and I were not authorized to be in the district building in that we violated policy by being there. This is a full Board matter in that each Board member is equal.
You should have discerned that we had authority to be in the building, were not disruptive and sought information authorized by law. All contacts with Dr. Suggs were initiated by him at which time he did not address any of the points of his letter nor indicate any disruptive activity on our behalf. I, therefore, couch the issue to be “whether a citizen entitled to access information authorized by the FOIA may be punished, excoriated and otherwise subjected to gross hearsay about that citizen’s historic behavior, especially when Dr. Suggs could not have evidence of such past behavior?”
My request is that the Board reaffirm its commitment to following the law after it affords the public an opportunity to address the matter. I reiterate that this is not a matter where the right of the administrator to set reasonable conditions for building access is an issue.
Consistent and fair application of visitor policies is the past practice. Will that remain the case under Dr. Suggs? Or will Dr. Suggs, upon inquiries for information that he does not wish to disclose, create new rules without Board authority??
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
John W Walker