Every week, Student Press Law Center attorneys answer a frequently asked question about student media law in “Ask SPLC.”
Q: I am trying to figure out what my school is doing to cope with COVID-19. How can I access information about their plans?
A: Your school’s budget has been set since the beginning of the year. But by looking at new funding approvals, you can find out what your school or school district’s priorities are during the COVID-19 outbreak. You could potentially figure out how much money is being spent to facilitate remote learning or deep clean the campus. Pay attention to school board and local government meetings where decisions are made to approve additional funds earmarked for combatting COVID-19. Although each state has its own open records law, such funding information is usually open to the public. However, the specific details available can vary district-by-district, or even school-by-school. Note that private schools are likely not required to release the same information as public schools. Making an informal request to the appropriate school official for the relevant new funding changes should be sufficient. If your request is denied, you can invoke your state’s open records law by making a formal request in writing. The SPLC provides a free automated letter generator to help you create a formal public records request tailored to your state’s law.
See SPLC’s Coronavirus Toolkit for additional resources like a letter affirming student media is an “essential service,” what to do if your program is under threat because of the outbreak, FAQs about transitioning your student newsroom to remote work and more.
Legal questions should be directed toward SPLC’s legal hotline. Ask SPLC questions will be selected based on trends in the legal hotline. The legal hotline is confidential and no identifying information will be used in the Ask SPLC segment.