4040 Public Access to District Records

Full access to information concerning the administration and operations of the district shall be afforded to the public as provided by the Public Disclosure Law, mindful of the right of individuals to privacy and of the desirability of efficient administration of the district. Public access to district records shall be afforded according to the procedures developed by the superintendent and periodically reviewed by the board.

“School district records” include any writing, printing, photocopying, photographing, etc., containing information relating to the conduct of operations and functions of the district which is prepared, owned, used, or retained by the district. “Writing” means handwriting, typewriting, printing, photocopying, photographing, and every other means of recording any form of communication on representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combination thereof, and all papers, maps, magnetic or paper tapes, photographic films and prints, motion picture, film and video recordings, magnetic or punched cards, discs, drums, diskettes, sound recordings and other documents including existing data compilations from which information may be obtained or translated. “School district records” do not include the personal notes and memoranda of staff which remain in the sole possession of the maker and which are not generally accessible or revealed to other persons.

The superintendent or designee shall serve as “public records coordinator” with responsibility and authority for ensuring compliance with the display, indexing, availability, inspection, and copying requirements of state law and this policy. As coordinator he/she shall authorize the inspection and copying of the district’s records only in accordance with the criteria set forth in this policy.

In accordance with RCW Chapter 42.56, the district shall make available for public inspection and copying all district records, or portions, except those which contain the following information:

  1. Personal information from any file maintained for students (RCW 42.56.230(1). Information from student records shall be disclosed only in accordance with the requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, 20 U.S.C. § 1232g and adopted district policy;
  2. Personal information in files maintained for staff to the extent that disclosure would violate their right to privacy (Requests for verification of employment are not public records and will not be disclosed. Performance evaluations that do not discuss specific instances of misconduct are private and not of legitimate public concern. They will not be disclosed) (RCW 42. 56.230(2);
  3. Test questions, scoring keys, or other examination data used to administer academic tests (RCW 42.56.250(1));
  4. The contents of real estate appraisals, made for or by the district relative to the acquisition of property, until the project is abandoned or until such time as all of the property has been acquired, but in no event shall disclosure be denied for more than three years after the appraisal (RCW 42.56.260);
  5. Preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, and intra-district memoranda in which opinions are expressed or policies formulated or recommended except that a specific record shall not be exempt when publicly cited by the district in connection with any district action (RCW 42. 56.280);
  6. Records which are relevant to a controversy in which the district is a party but which records would not be available to another party under the rules of pretrial discovery for cases pending in the superior courts – RCW 42.56.290;
  7. Records or portions of records the disclosure of which would violate personal rights of privacy – RCW 42.56.210 and RCW 42.56.070;
  8. Records or portions of records the disclosure of which would violate governmental interests – RCW 42.56.210;
  9. The residence addresses, telephone numbers, personal wireless telephone numbers, personal electronic mail addresses, social security numbers and emergency contact information of employees or volunteers at a public agency held in personnel records, rosters, and mailing lists — RCW 42.56.250(3).
  10. The names, dates of birth, residential addresses and telephone numbers, personal wireless telephone numbers, personal electronic mail addresses, social security numbers and emergency contact information of dependents of employees and volunteers of a public agency.
  11. Personally identifiable information for special education students — WAC 392-172.

If the district denies any request, in whole or in part, for inspection and copying of records, the district shall provide the requesting party with a written statement of the reason for the denial setting forth the specific exemption (and statutory section) which applies. No request shall be denied solely on the basis that the request is overbroad.

If the record which is requested for inspection and/or copying contains both information exempted from disclosure and nonexempt information, the district shall, to the extent practicable, produce the record with the exempt portion deleted and shall provide a written explanation for the deletion.

The district may inquire into the purpose for which a record is requested and may use the answer to aid in determining whether the public has a legitimate interest in obtaining the information, but the district may not decline to furnish the records for public inspection and copying solely because the requester refuses to furnish a reason for the request.

The district may condition access to a public record containing a list of individuals on the requester’s promise that the record will not be used for a commercial purpose, but may not require the requester to enter into a hold harmless agreement to that effect.

The public records coordinator is authorized to seek an injunction to prevent the disclosure of records otherwise discloseable when he/she determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that the disclosure would clearly not be in the public interest and would substantially and irreparably damage any person or would substantially or irreparably damage vital governmental functions.

The coordinator shall inform any employee and appropriate collective bargaining unit representative when a record naming the employee has been requested. The employee and representative shall be informed of the district’s intended response to the request.

Electronic Records

Electronic records (including e-mail and web content) created and received by the district in the transaction of public business are public records for the purposes of RCW 40.14 and will be managed consistent with all of the laws and regulations governing the retention disclosure, destruction and archiving of public records. The district will manage electronic records according to the same provisions as paper documents as set forth in the records retention schedules. Electronic records will be retained in electronic format and remain usable, searchable, retrievable and authentic for the length of the designated retention period. The district will retain electronic records designated as archival in the original format along with the hardware and software required to read the data, unless the data has been successfully migrated to a new system. The district will retain records in compliance with the General Records Retention Schedule For School Districts And Educational Service Districts in Washington State found at: www.sos.wa.gov/archives/recordsretentionschedules.aspx.

Cut-Off
Whenever applicable, the retention period starts with the “cut-off.” “Cut-off” is a term used to indicate files or records may be terminated on a predetermined date. “Cut-off” prevents current records from attaining unmanageable size and facilitates the filing of new records. Calendar year records may be “cut-off” on December 31, and a new file established on January 1; all fiscal year records can be “cut-off” only upon the completion of an action or event, such as termination of contract, final payment of a contract, termination of employment, etc. Regardless of the duration of the retention period, records series should be kept in the office files after “cut-off” only as long as is necessary to satisfy: (1) active reference; (2) audit, when required; and (3) other operational requirements. Once these three factors have been satisfied, the records should be transferred to a records center or to an appropriate alternative format, including electronically for the remainder of the retention period.

Cross Reference:
Board Policy 3231 Student Privacy

Legal Reference:
Ch. 42.17 RCW Disclosure — Campaign Finances — Lobbying

Ch. 42.56 Public Records Act

20 U.S.C. § 1232g Federal Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA).

Management Resources:
Policy News, June 2006         Public Records Act

Policy News, October 2005      Public Disclosure

Policy News, February 2010     Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act Revisions

Adoption Date: 2.10
Methow Valley School District
Classification: Priority WSSDA 2.10

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