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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Information

The Rights of Requesters & the Responsibilities of the City of Fairfax School Board

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located § 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia, guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees.

A public record is any writing or recording — regardless of whether it is a paper record, an electronic file, an audio or video recording, or any other format — that is prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business.  All public records are presumed to be open, and may only be withheld if a specific, statutory exemption applies.

The policy of FOIA states that the purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities.  In furthering this policy, FOIA requires that the law be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption allowing public records to be withheld must be interpreted narrowly.

Your FOIA Rights

  • You have the right to request to inspect or receive copies of 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 are encouraged to contact the FOIA officer (below) so that any dispute can be promptly resolved. Alternatively, you may file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA or contact the FOIA Council for a nonbinding advisory opinion.

Making a Request for records from the City of Fairfax School Board

  • You may request records by U.S. Mail, fax, e-mail, in person, or over the phone.  FOIA does not require that your request be in writing, nor do you need to specifically state that you are requesting records under FOIA.
  • Your request must identify the records you are seeking with “reasonable specificity.”  This is a common-sense standard.  It does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records that you are requesting; instead, it requires that you be specific enough so that we can identify and locate the records that you are seeking. For this reason, and to avoid delays in responding to your request, we encourage you to submit your request in writing, particularly if it s a large or complicated one.
  • Your request must ask for existing records or documents.  FOIA gives you a right to inspect or copy records; it does not apply to a situation where you are asking general questions about the work of the City of Fairfax School Board, nor does it require the City of Fairfax School Board to create a record that does not exist.
  • You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by the City of Fairfax School Board in the regular course of business.
  • If we have questions about your request, please cooperate with staff’s efforts to clarify the type of records that you are seeking, or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement about a response to a large request.  Making a FOIA request is not an adversarial process, but we may need to discuss your request with you to ensure that we understand what records you are seeking.

To request records or ask questions regarding the requesting of records from the City of Fairfax School Board, please contact the FOIA Officer:

Carrie Dorsey
FOIA Officer
10455 Armstrong Street
Fairfax, VA 22030
carrie.dorsey (at) fairfaxva.gov
703-385-7911

The City of Fairfax School Board’s Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request

  • The City of Fairfax School Board must respond to your request within five 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.
  • The reason behind your request for public records from the City of Fairfax School Board is irrelevant, and you do not have to state why you want the records before we respond to your request.  FOIA does, however, allow the City of Fairfax School Board to require you to provide your name and legal address.
  • FOIA requires that City of Fairfax School Board make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
  1. We provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
  2. We 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 withheld, 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.
  3. We provide some of the records that you have requested, but withhold other records. If only a portion of a record is subject to an exemption, we may redact the portion of the record that may be withheld, and must provide you with the remainder of the record.  We must 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.
  4. We 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 will include contact information for the other public body in our response to you.
  5. If it is practically impossible for us 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 will make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning the production of the records. If that is unsuccessful, we may petition the court for additional time to respond to your request.

Costs

  • A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, searching for or reviewing the requested records. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body 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.
  • You may have to pay for the records that you request from the City of Fairfax School Board.  FOIA allows us to charge for the actual costs of responding to FOIA requests.  This would include 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.
  • If we estimate 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 does not include the time between when we ask for a deposit and when you respond.
  • You may request that we estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records that you have requested.  This will allow you to know about any costs upfront, or give you the opportunity to modify your request in an attempt to lower the estimated costs.
  • If you owe us money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, the City of Fairfax School Board may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.

Types of records

The following is a general description of the types of records held by the City of Fairfax School Board:

  • Personnel records concerning employees and officials of the City of Fairfax Schools
  • Student records
  • Records of School Board contracts
  • School Board minutes, agendas, preservations and related documents
  • Any other records produced or received during regular school board business.
  • If you are unsure whether the City of Fairfax School Board has the record(s) you seek, please contact the FOIA officer directly at 703-385-7911. In some cases, the records you seek may be held by the Fairfax County Public Schools, which provides certain services to City Schools. The FOIA officer will refer you to the County Schools FOIA officer when appropriate.

Commonly Used Exemptions:

The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure.  The City of Fairfax School Board commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:

  • Personnel records (§ 2.2-3705.1 (1) of the Code of Virginia) and certain investigations (§ § 2.2 – 3705.3 (3), (5), (11), (12))
  • Student records (§ 2.2 – 3705.4 (1))
  • Tests and Examinations  (§ 2.2 – 3705.1 (4))
  • Certain security related documents (§§ 2.2 – 3705.2 (2), (3), (4), (6), (7))
  • Records subject to attorney-client privilege (§ 2.2-3705.1 (2)) or attorney work product (§ 2.2-3705.1 (3))
  • Vendor proprietary information (§ 2.2-3705.1 (6))
  • Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded (§ 2.2-3705.1 (12))
  • Records compiled exclusively for use in closed meetings (§ 2.2-3705.1 (5))

The Freedom of Information Advisory Council is available to answer any questions you may have about FOIA.  The Council may be contacted by e-mail at foiacouncil@dls.virginia.gov, or by phone at (804) 225-3056 or [toll free] 1-866-448-4100.

Read the act online. http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title2.2/chapter37/

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