Frequently Asked Questions about what to do after you submit a public records request:
Response Time: When should I hear back from my district?
Check the deadline required by the statute in your state. Goldwater Institute has a great resource that gives state-specific timelines and even templates.
Deadline Missed: What do I do if my school district misses the response deadline?
Send a follow up email and ask about the delay in fulfillment.
If you still receive no response, contact the Superintendent and School Board Chair. Send them a copy of your request and the date requested.
Request Denied: What do I do if my request is denied?
Review your request. Was it too broad? Did you ask for too many things in one request? Tighten up your request and resubmit. One primary reason requests are denied is the request is not specific enough.
Sticker Shock: How can I reduce the cost?
If you request 5 years’ worth of emails, it is likely you will be quoted a large sum of money (it can be hundreds to thousands of dollars) to complete your request. Make your request as specific and as targeted as possible. You can always submit additional requests. Review our FOIA Resource to assist you in writing the best FOIA possible. Reach out to us if you need help!
Something Missing? What do I do if I know that the district is missing documents or communications in a request?
If you are missing information that you know exists, reach out to the FOIA office via email. Let them know what you believe is missing. If you have any supporting evidence that something is missing (like part of an email), include that in your correspondence. If you still do not get all of the information, you can file an official appeal with the FOIA office.
TMI! What should I do if the district sends me teacher or student personal information in the FOIA?
If you receive personal or confidential information about another student in your FOIA response, notify your district immediately.
Success: Documents Received! Now what?
Review the response. Did you receive everything you requested? Did the response raise additional concerns that warrant another FOIA? If the response appears incomplete, you can file an appeal. If you know something specific is missing, share that with the Public Records Officer.
Sharing the Information: It Does No Good Hiding in Your “Inbox”
Now that you have the information, there are several good ways to get the information out. It is helpful to provide a brief summary of what the information or documents mean – not everyone will be as familiar with the content as you have become.
Social media is a great way to reach many people both inside and outside of your community. If your parent group has social media outlets, post the information there. Share the information with your parent group and community contacts via an email list. Share the information with local media. New to working with the media? Our “How to Engage with the Media” resource will provide guidance. Network with local parents and community members to extend your media reach. Develop these lists over time and keep them updated. Start with your local newsletter or paper and local tv and radio stations. You can also create a press release to easily communicate your findings. Get help on writing your press release here.
Start local then build out. Research and connect with other organizations, state and nationwide.
Consider sharing the information with your school board members, district leadership or during the public comments sections at the local school board meeting. They should want to know what is happening in their district. “How to Speak to Your School Board” will help get you started.
Lastly, share what you found with Parents Defending Education so we can alert other parents in your area and state.
Wrap Up: Document Everything
Keep notes. Keep all email communications. Follow any phone calls or in-person discussions up with an email restating the conversation. Be persistent. You have a right to information that should be publicly available. Parents Defending Education is here if you run into a wall and need assistance.