TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Federal appeals court puts a stop to the “FOIA death spiral”

For years, federal agencies have been freezing journalists in public-records purgatory with a maddening tactic: The "thanks for your request, we'll respond to it (someday)" letter.It's the bureaucratic equivalent of the spinning beach ball of death, and twice as frustrating.Getting the "non-response response" letter trapped the requester in a no-win predicament.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Mining the courthouse to explain the human impact of college student loan debt

As a combined result of the difficult job market and the crushing expense of student loan debt, many thousands of recent graduates are experiencing an unwelcome "reunion" with their colleges -- in court.The enormity of how much students owe is well-documented.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Journalists requesting public records from colleges are being treated like dogs. This Sunshine Week, it’s time to unleash some shame.

A federal privacy law meant to safeguard student grades, transcripts and disciplinary files continues being misapplied to obstruct public accountability, even where no legitimate privacy interests are at stake.Exhibit A is the University of Oklahoma's stubborn insistence that parking tickets are "confidential education records" under FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: As states retrench on openness of presidential searches, can journalists play “find-the-finalists?”

In their quest to conceal the selection of college presidents from the public's inquiring eyes, state officials are taking increasingly extreme and desperate measures.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Loosening the restraints — how to get information about school “seclusion” tactics

Managing unruly kids who lash out at classmates and teachers is one of the most delicate tasks for schools, and those who must manage emergencies when physical safety is at stake understandably resist being second-guessed.But there's evidence that students are at times pinned, tied up or locked away in closet-sized isolation rooms for just being annoying even if they do not present a danger to others.Federal statistics indicate that disabled students and racial minorities are disproportionately likely to be placed under physical restraint, raising questions about whether the safety measures are administered even-handedly.Finding out what techniques your school district uses to respond to assaultive kids -- and how often -- should be a matter of a single public records request.