Students face restricted access to open records and meetings due to COVID-19

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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, student journalists are facing issues obtaining public records and accessing what should be open meetings. SPLC staff attorney Sommer Ingram Dean said a majority of the calls to SPLC's legal hotline in March and April have been about COVID-19 related access issues. She said student journalists have called about:  Experiencing… Continue reading Students face restricted access to open records and meetings due to COVID-19

State supreme court rules UNC-Chapel Hill must release sexual assault disciplinary records

Photo courtesy of Angelica Edwards, it was taken on March 23, 2020.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled University of North Carolina must hand over student, faculty, and staff rape, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct records requested by the university's student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel.

Access to public information restricted as schools move online

Many schools across the country are failing to comply with Sunshine Laws during the coronavirus pandemic, which is making it even more difficult for student journalists to cover the news. Daniel Bevarly, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, said the coronavirus isn’t a legally acceptable reason for universities to withhold public information… Continue reading Access to public information restricted as schools move online

How to access the information you need to cover mental illness at your school

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Editor's note: This story provides tips for finding information about mental health in schools. For guidance on ethical considerations while covering these stories, please consult National Alliance on Mental Illness or Active Minds. For legal considerations, contact SPLC's legal hotline.  Mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression are rising among teenagers. According to Active Minds,… Continue reading How to access the information you need to cover mental illness at your school

Connecticut schools can’t claim employee misconduct records are FERPA protected, FOI commission rules

Pexels / Andrea Piacquadio

The Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, an administrative agency that enforces open record laws, unanimously decided on Feb. 13 that schools cannot withhold educator misconduct records on the grounds of protecting student privacy. The ruling clarifies that public schools can't withhold an entire employee misconduct document because it contains identifying information about a student —… Continue reading Connecticut schools can’t claim employee misconduct records are FERPA protected, FOI commission rules

When I request records, do I have to explain why I want them?

Every week, Student Press Law Center attorneys answer a frequently asked question about student media law in “Ask SPLC.” Q: Am I required to explain why I want a particular record when submitting an open records request? A: Almost always, states and the federal government FOI laws make clear that the motivation behind an open records request is irrelevant.… Continue reading When I request records, do I have to explain why I want them?

How student journalists fought FERPA, and how you can too

Chandler Boese / The Daily Kansan

If you’ve ever requested documents from your school through open records law and been denied or had substantial information redacted, there’s a good chance you’ve dealt with The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA. This privacy law is a common barrier for student journalists looking to dig deeper into what’s happening at their… Continue reading How student journalists fought FERPA, and how you can too

Do I need to be a citizen of a state to request records there?

Q: I am hearing rumors that a recently hired school official was fired from his job at a public college in another state and would like to find out more. Do I need to be a citizen of that state to request records? A: In most cases no. The vast majority of states do not require… Continue reading Do I need to be a citizen of a state to request records there?

Is there an age limit for requesting public records?

Q: Is there an age limit for requesting public records under an open records law? A: Currently, Louisiana is the only state that requires a requester be the “age of majority,” which in Louisiana is currently 18. Likewise, there is no age requirement to request federal records under the federal Freedom of Information Act. Every… Continue reading Is there an age limit for requesting public records?

Are student government election results at a public high school public records?

Q: Are student government election results at a public high school public records? My school only announces who won and does not provide the actual vote tally.  A: The answer will probably depend on the wording of your state’s open records law. In the only case we are aware of to date, the Virginia State Supreme Court declined to… Continue reading Are student government election results at a public high school public records?