The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA) is the state law governing access by citizens of Virginia, and representatives of the media, to public records and to meetings of public bodies, as defined in the act. VFOIA provides that, with some specific exemptions and exceptions, all meetings of public bodies shall be open to the public and all public records open for public inspection. All public meetings and records are presumed open unless an exemption is properly invoked.
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) complies with the state's Freedom of Information Act.
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act guarantees access by citizens of Virginia and members of the media to the meetings of public bodies like the School Board, and to inspect public records.
The law says that, in general, these meetings and records should be open to citizen inspection, with some specific exceptions, and requires that those exceptions be narrowly construed.
It is recommended, though not required, that VFOIA requests be made in writing. Requests can be made in person, by phone, by mail, or electronically. It is not necessary to specify the reason for your request. However, you must provide your name and legal address.
It is recommended that prior to submitting a VFOIA request for records you should review the remainder of the FCPS website, in particular the pages dealing with FCPS departments and to use the site's search function. Doing so should assist you in in identifying the department that has the type(s) of records you are looking for, and identifying the types of records that you will want to ask for. In many instances, the requestor may find the information or records that you are looking for online.
Members of the public making a request under VFOIA should contact:
Public Information Specialist, FOIA Officer
8115 Gatehouse Rd.,
Falls Church, VA 22042
VFOIA requires that a request for public records must identify the requested records with "reasonable specificity."
A VFOIA request may be made for any existing documents or reports; however, public bodies are not required under VFOIA to create a new document that does not exist to satisfy a request.
Within 5 working days after a request is received, a public body must:
The act does not require electronic delivery of requested documents, though they may be provided electronically if available.
A public body is permitted to make reasonable charges not to exceed the actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. Public bodies are permitted to make reasonable charges only for the costs to access, search for, duplicate and supply requested records.
If asked for by the requestor, the public body must make an advance estimate of the charges. In any case where the public body determines in advance that the charges for producing the requested records will exceed $200, the public body may, before continuing to process the request, require the requestor to agree to the payment of a deposit not to exceed the amount of the advance determination. The deposit will be credited toward the final cost of supplying the requested records. School Board Notice 2701 provides information regarding fees for duplicating student scholastic records.
Before processing a request for records, a public body may require the requestor to pay for any amounts owed to the public body for previous requests for records that remain unpaid 30 days or more after billing.
All meetings of all public bodies, as defined in VFOIA, as well as any meetings of their committees or sub-committees, are generally required to be open meetings, subject to certain exceptions spelled out in the Act. An open meeting is a meeting open to the members of the public.
Under VFOIA, for there to be a "meeting" subject to the Act, there must be at least three members of the body, or a quorum of the public body if less than three, present for the purpose of discussing or transacting public business. A gathering of public employees for training is not a meeting under the Act.
During the course of a public meeting, a public body may go into a closed meeting to discuss certain specific types of matters set forth in VFOIA. In order to do so, the public body must follow the specific procedures set forth in VFOIA to go into and come out of closed session.
VFOIA permits members of the public to photograph or record (audio, visual, or audio-visual) public meetings. It also permits public bodies to adopt reasonable rules concerning the use of cameras and recorders, designed to prevent disruption.
Access to student records is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ( 34CFR99 ), so these records are excluded from VFOIA requests.
The VFOIA exempts from disclosure student scholastic records concerning identifiable individuals to anyone except the student who is the subject of the record or to the student’s parent or legal guardian if the student is under 18.
If you are seeking copies of your own student records or those of your child, please direct your request to the principal of the school the student is attending or that the student last attended if the student withdrew or graduated from FCPS within the past 5 years. If the student has not attended FCPS within the past 5 years, please visit this web site for more information about requesting student transcripts.
FCPS will not honor requests from other individuals for access to a student’s personally-identifiable scholastic records unless the student’s parent or legal guardian, if the student is under 18, or the adult student has provided FCPS a written consent authorizing the disclosure or the disclosure is otherwise permitted by law. A consent form may be found here.
More information about the Virginia FOIA can be found through the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council.
If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact Brandy Reaves at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone 571-423-1220.
December 21, 2012