Parents have legal authority to gain access to any and all materials used to support their children’s education. This information can be obtained by either contacting the teacher or principal. In some cases, there may be ancillary information that a parent or citizen wishes to obtain to gather additional context on a topic of interest. This information can be obtained by issuing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
The Freedom of Information Act is meant to ensure ready access to all government documents and meetings; this includes emails, notes, letters, policy, laws, videos, etc. You may make a request of any government entity, including schools, offices, and boards. They must reply to your request within 5 business days but may take up to an additional 7 days if needed.
A CARE citizen has researched this topic and provided some tips (below) on how to issue a FOIA request, and where to send them. Be aware there may be fees depending on how expansive the request is. If it can be fielded in less than 30 minutes, there should not be a fee.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA) CONTACTS IN ALBEMARLE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND VIRGINIA
|Albemarle County||James Douglasfirstname.lastname@example.org|
HOW TO FILE:
- Prepare an email that is as specific as possible, as FOIAs can carry a cost. If more than 30 minutes are required to collect, redact, and prepare the information, there will be a fee commensurate with the level of effort. Include your name, email address, and contact phone number.
- You are NOT required to give a reason for the request, nor do you have to have standing. Any member of the public is allowed access to public documents.
- ALWAYS request an estimated cost in your initial FOIA request to avoid a large bill.
- Request electronic copies versus paper copies when possible, of desired information, to help cut down on costs.
- Send a copy of your email to all interested parties to ensure it is seen (school board representative, principal, State or County Office…). Names of principals for each school are available here.
- If you are not satisfied with their response to a FOIA request you may appeal by petitioning a district o circuit court or asking for a nonbinding opinion from the Freedom of Information Act Advisory Council.
EXAMPLE FOIA LANGUAGE
Please provide all emails between Principal X and Teacher Y at Z Middle School pertaining to Culturally Responsive Teaching teacher development seminars and training between the dates of April 1, 2016 and September 23, 2016
I would like to make an official FOIA request. Could you please tell me if ACPS uses any of Panorama Education’s surveys within its schools? If not Panorama, who does create the surveys that our students take? (this FOIA was free)
I would like to get a copy of every email sent to or sent from the email@example.com email box. If responses were sent to these incoming emails from a different party, please include them as well. The dates of interest are 7/16-8/18. Please provide this information electronically. (this FOIA cost $250)