FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA) REQUESTS
Legal Requests Made Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act or the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Act
FOIA and the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Act provide the public with access to existing non-exempt official records of a public agency, but do not require the Division to generate or create records, nor respond to inquiries for information. Certain categories of records may be withheld under these laws, such as personnel records; student records; test and examinations used to evaluate student or employee performance; records relating to the security of students, staff and property; records protected from disclosure under the attorney-client or work-product privileges; the Superintendent’s working papers; closed session materials, etc.
Your FOIA Rights
- You have the right to request to inspect or receive copies of non-exempt public records, or both.
- You have the right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.
- If you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated, you may file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA. Alternatively, you may contact the FOIA Council for a nonbinding advisory opinion.
Making a Request for Records from PWCS
Any request for official public records made under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act or the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Act shall be directed and/or delivered to the Division’s FOIA Compliance Officer, who has been designated as such pursuant to Va. Code § 2.2-3704.1 (A) (2), as follows:
Tanisha Holland, FOIA Officer
Prince William County Public Schools
Post Office Box 389
Manassas, Virginia 20108
HollanTN1@pwcs.edu, (tel) 703.791.8071, (fax) 703.791.8033
Such requests shall be dated, and should state with “reasonable specificity” the documents requested. The requestor shall provide his or her name and legal address. You may request records by U.S. mail, fax, email, in person, or over the phone. You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by PWCS in the regular course of business.
From a practical perspective, it is helpful to both you and PWCS to have your request in writing. This allows you to create a record of your request, and assists PWCS in understanding exactly what records you are requesting and expediting a response.
PWCS Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request
- PWCS must respond to your request within five (5) working days of receiving it. “Day one” is considered the day after your request is received. The five-day period does not include weekends or holidays. FOIA requires that PWCS make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
- We will provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
- We will withhold all of the records that you have requested, because all of the records are subject to a specific statutory exemption. If all of the records are being withhold, we must send you a response in writing. That writing must identify the volume and subject matter of the records being withheld, and state the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows us to withhold the records.
- We will provide some of the records that you have requested, but withhold other records. We cannot withhold an entire record if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, we may redact the portion of the record that may be withheld, and must provide you with the remainder of the record. We must also provide you with a written response stating the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld.
- We will inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist (we do not have the records you want). However, if we know that another public body has the requested records, we must include contact information for that public body in our response to you.
- If it is practically impossible for PWCS to respond to your request within the five-day period. We must state this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible. This will allow us seven additional working days to respond to your request, giving us a total of 12 working days to respond to your request.
- If you make a request for a very large number of records, and we feel that we cannot provide the records to you within 12 working days without disrupting our other organizational responsibilities, we may petition the court for additional time to respond to your request. However, FOIA requires that we make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning the production or the records before we go to court to ask for more time.
- Upon receipt of such a request by the FOIA compliance officer, the Division shall respond in writing within five (5) working days of the date such request was received. If additional time is needed to respond to the request, or if any of the requested records will be withheld under any FOIA exemption, or if an advance deposit is required for costs associated with responding to the request, the requestor shall be so informed.
- PWCS may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. Any duplicating fee charged shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication. All charges for the supplying of requested records shall be estimated in advance at the request of the citizen as set forth in subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.
- FOIA allows PWCS to charge for the actual costs of responding to FOIA requests. This includes items like staff time spent searching for the requested records, copying costs, or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records. It cannot include general overhead costs.
- You may request that PWCS estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records that you have requested. This will allow you to know about any costs upfront and give you the opportunity to modify your request in an attempt to lower the estimated costs.
- If PWCS estimates that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, we may require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request. The five days that we have to respond to your request is tolled until PWCS receives payment as requested.
- If you owe PWCS money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, PWCS may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.
FERPA REQUESTS FOR EDUCATIONAL RECORDS
The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) provides parents/guardians and eligible students (18 years or older) with the right to access, review, and obtain copies of student educational records. Requests for access to or copies of student educational records are processed under the procedures set forth in Policy 790, Student Educational Records, and Regulation 790-2, Disclosure/Access to Student Educational Records.
INFORMAL REQUESTS FOR PUBLIC INFORMATION
How to Request Information Informally
Citizens and members of the media are encouraged to submit informal requests for information and documents relating to the School Division directly to the Department for Communications and Technology Services. These requests will be handled as expeditiously as possible, but will not be considered requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Act, or any other formal legal vehicle.
Submit an informal request for information.
This notice complies with the posting requirements of Va. Code § 2.2-3704.1.