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?
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
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?
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?
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?
Ginny Bixby: Access to public records can be the key to great journalism, especially at a public university. By examining public records, student journalists gain information about a school’s operations and hold school officials accountable for their actions. For student journalists at Florida State University in Tallahassee, covering the athletics department is about to become… Continue reading PODCAST: What the privatization of Florida State University’s athletics department will mean for journalists
Q: What information does the Clery Act give me access to? A: Any college or university that accepts federal funding is required to notify the campus community when certain crimes are reported. Every school must keep an annual statistical report, a daily crime log, and make "timely reports" to the community when certain crimes are reported that… Continue reading Ask SPLC: What information does the Clery Act give me access to?
A bill that would force campus police to comply with Utah public records law was approved by the state House of Representatives Tuesday. The Senate approved the bill earlier this month, and the measure now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert to sign. The law would expand the definition of a law enforcement agency to cover… Continue reading Utah bill that would subject BYU police department to public records law sent to governor’s desk
On Feb. 19, House Bill 1 passed the Virginia Senate with a 38-2 vote. The bill will now go back to the House for approval of changes made by the Senate.
A recent opinion by the Virginia Supreme Court illustrates just how closely requests for teacher-specific information can be scrutinized, and drives home the importance of carefully considering an open-records request before making it.