Herald and Journal, February 23, 1998

KARE 11 investigation targets HLWW Schools


The Howard Lake Herald was alerted to a possible visit from KARE 11 investigative reporter Rick Kupchella to Tuesday's HLWW School Board meeting.

Kupchella attempted to interview each of the board members with no success. He is working on a report to air sometime in the next week or so.

In an attempt to shed some light on the reason for the report, the Herald contacted HLWW Superintendent Riley Hoheisel.

Following is a statement from Hoheisel:

Over the past several days there have been inquiries from each of you on behalf of the Howard Lake Herald and KARE 11.

Your questions arise out of litigation following the unfortunate death by suicide of a student of the Howard Lake-Waverly School District in early January 1995.

In response to a request for data by the parents of the deceased student, the school district provided the information requested, except several documents which the school district declined to disclose based upon the school district's legal position that the school district had the right and good and sufficient reason to resist disclosure of the documents under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Chapter 13.

The school district's action was the subject of a complaint by Allen. Baldwin to the U.S. Department of Education.

The complaint sought disclosure of the documents.

After review of submissions on behalf of the parties, the U.S. Department (of Education) sustained the school district's position in its decision dated March 25, 1997.

On June 23, 1997, a summons and complaint, venued in Wright County District Court, was received in the office of the school district's legal counsel.

Allen and Kathleen Baldwin sought an order of the Court ordering release of the documents.

The matter was heard before the district court on Sept. 26, 1997.

The court ruled that the documents must be disclosed. The court stayed its order for 30 days pending the school district's decision regarding appeal.

The school district, after due consideration and in part with the hope that disclosure would bring this matter to closure, elected not to appeal and the documents were delivered to counsel for the Baldwins pursuant to the court's order.

Subsequently, a motion demanding attorney's fees in excess of $32,000 was filed on behalf of the Baldwins.

The matter again came before the Wright county District Court. The court ruled that an award of attorney's fees was not appropriate.

The issue of attorney's fees is presently on appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

It has been and remains the position of the school district that it does not wish to publicize a tragedy involving a school district family.

However, to the extent this matter is publicized, the school district wants to be sure that all of the relevant facts are made known.

Essentially all of the relevant facts are contained in the Wright County District Court file.

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