Rochester parents invoiced up to 8 figures for public records tied to district 'snooping'

Posted at 7:07 PM, May 18, 2022

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Laurie Madigen’s child is about to graduate from Rochester Adams High School. During this pandemic, she feels her daughter’s fallen behind in learning because of remote learning.

"The last two-and-a-half years, my daughter has not taken a single test in the district. How does that prepare them for college?” Madigen said.

She's part of a group of parents online — in a Facebook group — voicing their frustrations about remote learning in the Rochester Community Schools District. A lawsuit brought by a parent who criticized the district in 2021 claims she lost her job after the district contacted her employer.

As a result, parents in the Facebook group filed public records request of their own. They asked the district to release information the district may have collected on them individually.

“My invoice was $173,000," Madigen said.

According to the district's Freedom of Information Act response, she’d have to pay half up front in order for the information to be searched and compiled.

“There’s some parents who have in the millions and most parents are afraid to speak out," she explained.

One parent shared an invoice for $18 million.

“I don’t know what they’re hiding, but they’re definitely hiding information. Why make it so difficult for parents to get (public records) if they don’t have something to hide," she said.

Steve Delie is the volunteer executive director for the Michigan Coalition for Open Government.

“I'm a bit surprised by this. It's very rare to see six-figure, seven-figure FOIA fees for anything short of a truly comprehensive request for a long period of time. And so, it's a bit concerning to see fees this high on records from a relatively limited period," Delie explained.

"The larger concern here is that the attitude is not one of cooperation toward not putting an excessive burden on a public body, but still making sure that the requester gets access to the information that they need and it doesn't seem like that's happened here," Delie continued.

In a statement, the district told 7 Action News:

Rochester Community Schools does not have a dossier. The notion of a dossier appears to have been conceived by an attorney for litigation purposes.

Rochester Community Schools does not have a list of names of parents who are on social media.

As a responsible and respectful listener, we pay attention to newspaper, radio, TV news, social media, and our community members to make sure we are responsive to the community.

Recent tragic experiences of school violence in other districts demonstrate the importance and responsibility of any school district to take threats seriously, report them to law enforcement, and provide for the safety of the community. Students, staff, and families are also encouraged to report information if they see or hear something that doesn’t seem right.

Rochester Community Schools remains cooperative in sharing information with community stakeholders within the limits of the law and district guidelines. A request for public records may be provided in writing to the district’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) coordinator and contain enough specificity to permit the district to locate the information. The RCS FOIA process is publicly available on the district website [].

FOIA allows the District to charge certain fees incurred for processing and responding to FOIA requests when a failure to charge a fee would result in unreasonably high costs to the District because of the nature of the request. An explanation of the nature of the costs is identified in the FOIA response.

Examples of requests that may cause such unreasonably high costs include, but are not limited to: voluminous requests; requests that require time consuming searches, significant separation or redaction of exempt documents or information, significant IT (information technology) personnel time, etc.

Rochester Community Schools will continue to move forward with great purpose and resolve to provide the best learning options for our students in the safest environment possible.