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“It’s just disgusting,” School charges mom $77,000 to access e-mails about her son

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GOODRICH, Mich. — A mother said she was given a $77,000 price tag when she tried to get information from her son’s school.

The controversy surrounds e-mails regarding Sherri Smith’s son, who has an intellectual disability, according to WNEM.

Smith says she wanted a year’s worth of email correspondence about her child, so she filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

That’s when the district sent her a bill of more than $77,000.

“It’s just disgusting they would ask that from parents,” Smith said. “I expected a nominal fee in exchange for some emails.”

“I do consider this flat-out a denial,” Smith said.

She said the astronomical charge is making her wonder what the district may be hiding.

“In fact, I believe that by them throwing up a brick wall, it makes me question more, so why can’t I have those emails?” Smith said.

According to the letter, the Goodrich Schools superintendent said it would take the district two years and more than 4,500 hours at a rate of $77,780 to get those emails.

“I think Goodrich Schools should be ashamed of themselves for even asking for this amount of money,” said Phil Ellison, Smith’s attorney.

Ellison said he’s not buying the district’s explanation of charges.

“Any one of us has a year’s worth of emails in our inbox and can select all and forward it and be done with the request in 10 minutes worth of work,” Ellison said.

Ellison also said the Freedom of Information Act laws changed on July 1. The biggest change has to do with people being charged too much money, like in Smith’s case.

TV5 wanted some answers from the Goodrich School District, so they called and talked to trustee Timothy Zirnhelt. He said he does not agree with the superintendent.

“It seems a bit high,” he said.

So far, there is no indication the district will back away from the charges. As for Smith, she said she wants the information, but refuses to pay tens of thousands of dollars.

“No matter how you look at this, it does not make sense,” she said.

Smith’s attorney said one of the reasons he’s so outraged is that under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, parents have a right to any information pertaining to their child’s school record at little to no cost.

A new request was filed on Wednesday when the law changed.

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