School Law Classroom
Attorneys for school district employees are writing school officials, demanding that they remove from employee personnel files any disciplinary records that are more than four years old. The demand is for a wholesale elimination, even asking that the records be sent to the attorney so they may be destroyed. Is this really required?
The Illinois Personnel Records Act does not prohibit school districts from retaining older disciplinary records. What it does prohibit is the release of older records to third parties.
A school district is required under the law to review a personnel record before releasing the information to a third party. However, unless the release is ordered in a legal action or arbitration, the employer must first delete disciplinary reports, letters of reprimand, or other records of disciplinary action which are more than four years old. This means that school districts may retain disciplinary records indefinitely. What it cannot do is release older disciplinary records to third parties.
Whether older records should be maintained is a school district decision. Unless clearly no longer relevant, it is usually wise to retain them because they may be important should future disciplinary issues arise. They also may be helpful where discrimination or other claims are asserted against the school district by the employee. Collective bargaining contracts or agreements in individual cases might require removal, but, absent that, the records may be retained. Whatever practice is implemented regarding the maintenance of older records, it should be applied uniformly and consistently to all employee personnel files, not just for select employees or groups of individuals.
Because of the restriction on disclosing older disciplinary records, school officials should develop procedures to ensure that the records are not released inadvertently. This might involve segregating them within the employment file or sorting them otherwise. Another helpful practice is to only release the file to the employee and let the employee provide the records to any third parties.
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