Understanding: Public Records Requests

Washington State has fairly strong Public Records Requests laws (these are different than federal FOIA requests).  School districts must communicate how citizens may request public records, which will be found under Policy 4040, 4040R.  There is a different process for requesting Student Records or Transcripts.  Here are some examples to help you understand how a process works.  Let’s take Tacoma, for example.  Go to their website:

https://www.tacomaschools.org/legal/Pages/Public-Records-Requests.aspx

Click to access PUBLIC%20RECORDS%20REQUEST%20FORM.pdf

They have a special form.  Paper copies are typically subject to costs per page.  Many districts will provide a PDF or disk of info at no cost.  Find out ahead of time what those costs will be per project.

Tacoma shows typical requests and have already “canned” them ahead of time.

Frequently Requested Public Records

Some Public Records may be accessed through the District website without the necessity of a Public Records Request. The following frequently requested records are available online:

  1. District Policies and Regulations
  2. School Board Meeting Notices, Agendas, Minutes 
  3. District Strategic Plan
  4. District Budget Summaries and Charts
  5. Collective Bargaining Agreements
  6. Enrollment Statistics, Demographics
  7. OSPI Washington State Report Card
  8. Public access to all District Contracts, Bids/RFPs and information on doing business with TPS

Here is a list of what is exempted under the RCW’s:

Click to access List%20of%20Other%20Exemptions%20Not%20in%20PRA.pdf

Further research elsewhere shows typical exemptions, in short, under U.S. and WA State law, but not an exhaustive list:

Exemptions to Public Records Disclosure

List of Laws Exempting or Prohibiting Disclosure Pursuant to RCW 42.56.070 (2), these procedures contain a list of laws — other than those specifically listed in the Washington Public Records Act, Chapter 42.56 RCW — which may exempt disclosure of certain public records or portions of records:

  • The Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act (FERPA), 20 USC § 1232g and 34 CFR Part 99 (regarding student educational records);
  • Washington State Student Education Records Law, RCW 28A.605.030;
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et. seq. and 34 CFR Part 300 (protecting the confidentiality of personally identifying information contained in student records of students with disabilities);
  • Privileged communications and attorney work product, such as set forth in Chapter 5.60 RCW;
  • Criminal Records Privacy Act (CRPA), Chapter 10.97, RCW;
  • Information on students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, 42 USC § 1758(b)(6);
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), 45 CFR Parts 160-164 (regarding health care information privacy and security);
  • Abuse of Children – Protection and Procedure, RCW 26.44.010; RCW 26.44.030(9);
  • Notification of Juvenile Offenders, RCW 13.04.155(3);
  • Examination questions for teachers or pupils prior to the examination, Questions, RCW 28A.635.040;
  • Public Law 98-24, Section 527 of the Public Health Services Act, 41 USC § 290dd-2 (confidentiality of alcohol and drug abuse patient records);
  • United States and Washington Constitutional provisions including, but not limited to, the right of privacy and freedom of association. In addition to these exemptions, RCW 42.56.070 (9) prohibits providing access to lists of individuals requested for commercial purposes.

OSPI’s process:
http://www.k12.wa.us/publicrecordsrequest/

 

We will be adding a section below on ideas that parents might use to request public records:   MORE TO FOLLOW


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