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BENTONVILLE -- A former Pea Ridge teacher is suing the School District claiming her rights were violated under the Freedom of Information Act when personnel documents were released without her having a chance to review them.

George Rozzell filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Benton County Circuit Court on behalf of Teresa Nida against the Pea Ridge School District and its superintendent, Rick Neal.

Neal declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday afternoon.

School Board members upheld Nida's termination at a meeting Monday.

According to the complaint, Annette Beard, a reporter for The Pea Ridge Times, requested documents related to Nida's termination and later emailed a request. Beard asked for the termination letter and other documents pertinent to Nida's termination, the lawsuit says. The Pea Ridge Times is a sister publication of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The lawsuit states Neal provided the documents to Beard after the meeting.

The lawsuit claims no attempts were made by the custodian of records to notify Nida of the request for documents related to her personnel matter. The lawsuit states no one for the School District took any action to determine whether the documents were exempt for disclosure.

Nida was informed after the meeting about the request and she asked to review the written request and any decision made by the School District, according to the complaint.

She reiterated Tuesday her rights under the Freedom of Information Act to review any request and seek review from the Arkansas Attorney General's Office, according to the complaint.

Nida elected to seek an attorney general's review in response to Beard's request. She believes some medical and psychological information about her shouldn't be released and didn't constitute a compelling public interest, according to the complaint.

Nida later learned the documents already had been given to Beard, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit claims the School District denied Nida her right to seek attorney general or judicial review about whether the requested documents were exempt from disclosure. The lawsuit describes the district's failure as "a willful and wanton violation of the FOIA."

Nida was initially reprimanded Nov. 16 by her supervisor for seeking advice from the school psychologist on personal matters and for unprofessional behavior. Nida denied the charges. She was terminated Dec. 4 for unprofessional behavior and not maintaining confidentiality about the personnel matter.

The case is assigned to Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green.

NW News on 01/18/2019

Print Headline: Lawsuit filed against Pea Ridge School District

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