The Freedom of Information Act is the principle Illinois law governing the inspection of public records. Originally enacted in 1984, it is based on the principle that the public should be able to access public records and information about the workings of their government. The principle mandate of the Act states that "each public body shall make available to any person for inspection and copying all public records."
The Freedom of Information Act, however, does recognize that in order to enable public bodies to perform certain governmental functions properly, and in order to protect personal privacy, some records and information may need to be kept confidential. Examples of documents that are not considered open to the public include individual student records, materials that could compromise security if released, documents related to ongoing labor negotiations, some records related to litigation or other legal procedures, and others.
The district has appointed Kathy Hogan, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent, as its primary FOIA officer. Requests should be made via email to D34FOIA@antioch34.com.
The FOIA officer will:
- Note and date the time the request is received
- Calculate the five day response deadline and note it in writing on the request (except for commercial requests)
- Keep all documents related to a request until it is complied with or denied
- Keep files maintaining all FOIA requests
The written request should include the requestor's name, address, the date, and a daytime phone number so that the district can contact the requestor if they have any questions. Please provide as much information as possible on the subject matter in order to help expedite the search process. Note on the request if the information is for commercial purposes.
Information will be sent out electronically whenever possible unless a specific request is made for paper copies to be picked up at the district office.
OPEN MEETINGS ACT OFFICERS
The Board of Education has identified Mary Beth Hulting as its OMA officer. She will receive training and monitor the Board to ensure compliance with the act. Any OMA questions should be directed to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
List of Records Immediately Disclosed Upon Request
- Union Contract
How long will it take to get an answer to my request?
When a written request for information is received, the district must comply within five working days. The Act provides, however, that under certain circumstances - for example if the requested records cannot be located in the course of a routine search and additional efforts must be made to locate them - the response time may be extended for up to five additional working days. If this happens, you will be notified by letter at the end of the first five days specifying the reason for the delay.
Day 1 of the 5-day timeline is the first business day after the district receives the request. A "business day" or "working day" is a regular day of the week (Monday through Friday) when public offices and most businesses are open. Saturdays, Sunddays, and state holidays are not business days and cannot be counted in the 5 business day time period.
That time period may be extended for an additional 5 business days from the date of the original due date if:
- The requested information is stored at a different location;
- The request requires the collection of a substantial number of documents;
- The request requires an extensive search;
- The requested records have not been located and require additional effort to find;
- The requested records need to be reviewed by staff who can determine whether they are exempt from FOIA;
- The requested records cannot be produced without unduly burdening the district or interfering with its operations; or
- The request requires the district to consult with another public body that has substantial interest in the subject matter of the request.
If additional time is needed, the district will notify the requestor in writing within 5 business days after the receipt of the request of the statutory reasons for the extension and when the requested information will be produced.
A commercial request is when the requestor seeks to use part or all of the public records for sale, resale, or solicitation or advertisement for sales or services. Requests by the news, not-for-profit organizations, scientific, or academic institutions are not considered commercial information requests. The district has 21 business days to respond to a request for information that is made for a commercial purpose. The district may either:
- Provide the requested records;
- Advise when the records will be provided and the costs;
- Deny the request (if it falls under an exception); or
- Advise the requestor that the request is unduly burdensome.
The FOIA law has a presumption that all information is public but there are several exceptions to public disclosure that include but are not limited to:
- Private information - "Private information" is exempt from disclosure under FOIA. FOIA defines "private information" as "unique identifiers, including a person's social security number, driver's license number, employee identification number, biometric identifiers, personal financial information, passwords or other access codes, medical records, home or personal telephone numbers, and person e-mail addresses." Under FOIA "private information also includes home addresses and person license plate numbers, except as otherwise provided by law or when compiled without possibility of attribution to any person."
- Personal information that, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless the person who is the subject of the information consents to the disclosure in writing. Under FOIA, the "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy" means the "disclosure of information that is highly personal or objectionable to a reasonable person and in which the subject's right to privacy outweighs any legitimate public interest in obtaining the information." Disclosing information that relates to the public duties of public employees is not considered an invasion of personal privacy.
- Information that, if disclosed, might endanger anyone's life or physical safety.
- Preliminary drafts or notes in which opinions are expressed or policies are formulated, unless the record is publicly cited and identified by the superintendent or school board.
- Business trade secrets or commercial or financial information that is proprietary, privileged or confidential and disclosure would cause competitive harm to the person or business.
- Proposals and bids for any contract, until a final selection is made.
- Requests that are "unduly burdensome." A request may be considered unduly burdensome if there is no way to narrow the request, and the burden on the public body to produce the information outweighs the public interest in the information. However, before relying on this exemption, the public body must first give the requestor an opportunity to reduce the request to a manageable size. If it is still unduly burdensome, the public body must explain in writing the reasons why the request is unduly burdensome and the extent to which compliance will burden the operations of the public body. Such a response is considered a denial.
What if the district doesn't have the particular record I'm requesting?
As a general rule, the district cannot be required to create records to respond to a request for information that is doesn't ordinarily maintain in record form. Additionally, the district is under no duty to recreate records that it no longer possesses, so long as those records were not disposed of to avoid compliance with the law.
Denial of FOIA Request
If the district determines that a denial of the request is justified, the reqestor will be informed in writing, and reference to the specific legal reason under FOIA justifying non-disclosure will be provided. The requestor has the right to seek review of the issue by the Public Access Counselor (PAS) in the Attorney General's office, as well as the right to seek judicial review by filing a court case.
A Request for Review is a letter that a requestor may submit to the PAC if they believe that the district has not followed FOIA. This letter is a formal way of asking the PAC to take a look at the request and the district's response (or lack thereof) and determine if a FOIA violation has occurred. The request must be in writing, must be signed by the requestor, and must include a copy of the FOIA request for access to records and any responses from the district. It must be submitted within 60 calendar days of the district's final response (or date upon which the response was due).
The Public Access Counselor is a part of the Public Access Bureau in the Attorney General's Office and may be contacted at:
Public Access Bureau
500 S. 2nd Street
Springfield, Illinois 62706