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Pa. grants 13-year-old's right to know request - abc27 WHTM

Pa. grants 13-year-old's right to know request

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Savannah Gibson is dancing for joy. The 13-year-old took on the Chambersburg School District and won.

According to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records, Gibson, with the help of her parents, filed a right to know request with the district. The request was "seeking grant proposals and financial records related to a district after-school program."

That program was ReachUSA, a non-profit program that teaches middle school dance and healthy living. The group's founder, Jason Reed, had a deal with the Chambersburg Area School District until he was let go. Shortly after the program stopped there, but not before, some say, the grant money stopped.

"I want to know what happened to the money ... how was it spent, the paperwork," Savannah Gibson said.

Gibson's initial request, however, was denied by the district. According to records, the district said she was too young and would have to reimburse the district for its legal fees because of the inconvenience. Moreover, the district cited the paperwork as "privileged attorney communications." The district also said there were similar, repetitive requests, saying, "it is apparent that all the requests originate from a single source, Jason Reed and his attorney."

Gibson does participate in Reed's program based out of Carlisle. Gibson is not a Chambersburg student, but rather a 7th grader at Susquenita Middle School.

Gibson filed an appeal with the state last month. On Monday, the Office of Open Records granted that appeal. The state found that it doesn't matter if the requester is a minor, that her request was not disruptive, and the records Gibson was seeking were public records.

"It was interesting to see a case in which a middle school student took on that task and was successful," Terry Mutchler, Executive Director of the Office of Open Records, said.

The district now has 30 days to hand over the paperwork. However, the district could appeal the state's decision.

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