Local School District Records
Q: Can you please direct me to the correct California Public Records Act form I need to use to obtain records from a School District?
Do I also need to submit a US FOIA request as well or is a CPRA request sufficient?
Are there applicable administrative remedies that need to be exhausted, ie, the specific Sunshine Ordinance laws, before I can file a CPRA request?
A: Since you are seeking records in the possession of a local agency, the only applicable open records law is the California Public Records Act (“PRA”) (the Federal Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, which you asked about, applies to records in the possession of federal agencies). Under the PRA, any document that is collected, owned, or maintained by a state or local government agency is presumptively available for public inspection unless one of the Act’s exemptions to disclosure applies.
You do not need to exhaust any other administrative remedies before making a PRA request. A request under the PRA can be either oral or in writing and does not need to include any magic words to be effective. However, there are certain benefits to putting your request in writing. When your request is made in writing, if the school district believes that the records are exempt from disclosure and denies your written request for records, they must provide you with written notification within 10 days that specifies the exemptions in the Act upon which they rely. Gov’t Code Section 6253( c).
A sample PRA request letter can be found on CFAC’s website at the following link: http://www.cfac.org/templates/cpraletter.html.
Finally, for your PRA requests to the School District, it might be useful to cite the city’s specific Sunshine Ordinance, which may provide greater rights than the PRA. For example, Section 67.25 of the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance provides: “[n]otwithstanding the 10-day period for response to a request permitted in Government Code Section 6256 and in this Article, a written request for information described in any category of non-exempt public information shall be satisfied no later than the close of business on the day following the day of the request. This deadline shall apply only if the words “Immediate Disclosure Request” are placed across the top of the request and on the envelope, subject line, or cover sheet in which the request is transmitted.” The Ordinance also specifies a local agency’s obligation to assist with a records request, and mandates that denials of requests be tailored to minimize the withholding of records. For more information, here is a link to the website for the Sunshine Ordinance’s task force, which also includes the full text of the Ordinance. https://codelibrary.amlegal.com/codes/san_francisco/latest/sf_admin/0-0-0-19477.