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.
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.
For at least half a decade, school officials in Columbus, Ohio, carried out an inventive method of reducing the rate of student absenteeism.They erased the absences.
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.
Records dribbling into the public domain as part of an NCAA probe of the University of North Carolina athletic program have disclosed that athletes flocked to particular courses that may not have been especially demanding.
Camera-shy government officials sometimes balk at allowing video recording of meetings that are otherwise open to the public.
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.
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.
Historical trivia fact: Until 2006, American phone consumers were paying a 3 percent tax on long-distance phone calls -- to cover the cost of fighting the Spanish-American War.
If you're curious how much Southern Utah University pays its president ($281,513 in base salary) or head basketball coach ($206,628), that's long been accessible with a few keystrokes.