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Federal law, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), require public schools to provide access to educational and employee records. And the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides public access to government records. We represent clients to ensure that they receive the records to which they are legally entitled.

What is the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Federal Freedom of Information Act (Commonly Referred to as FOIA) is to ensure citizens are informed and have access to Federal Government records.

It is important to remember that while requests for information of a school system are often referred to as FOIA requests, requests in Virginia fall under the Virginia Freedom of Information act, or VFOIA.

Virginia Freedom of Information Act

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA) ensures that the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia have ready access to public records in the custody of a public body, or its officers and employees, and free entry to meetings of public bodies where the business of the people is being conducted.

Why Submit a FOIA Request?

  • If you are in search of records, meeting minutes, or documents that have been generated by school system that pertain to a topic of interest that have not been discussed in a public forum.
  • If you are in search of information on a topic and have not received a response from an inquiry sent to a public official.
  • If you are in search of information on a topic of personal interested to you and are unable to find this information on a public webpage.

Tips For Submitting a Successful FOIA Request

  • Search for key terms on an organization’s website.
  • Use language that your school system uses. An example is School Lunch v. School Nutrition.
  • FOIA requests are not free. Narrow your request to lower the cost of the inquiry.
  • Gain an understanding of who might be in control of the document or information you are after. Use their name in the request.
  • Local school systems have a links on website related to FOIA. Follow the instructions.
  • FOIA does not require that requests are formal documents. Emails can suffice.
  • Ask yourself, “What Do I Want.”
  • Have a narrow timeline and scope of inquiry.
  • Include all forms of communication: Written, Emails, and Text Messages.

What Is The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?

  • FERPA is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.
  • The law applies to all schools that receive federal funds under an applicable program of the United States Department of Education (DOE).
  • FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records.

Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review a students educational records maintained by a school. Schools are not required to provide copies of the records, unless it is impossible for parents or students to review the records in-person. Parents or eligible students (18+) have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading.

Schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record. 

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