The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located in § 2.2-3700 et. seq. of the Code of Virginia, permits citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to the public records of public bodies, public officials and public employees, subject to the statutory exemptions of FOIA.
A public record is any writing or recording - regardless of whether it is a paper record, an electronic file, an audio or video recording or any other format - that is prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees, or agents in the transaction of public business. Va. Code § 2.2-3701. All public records are presumed to be open and may be withheld only if a statutory exemption applies.
The purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities. FOIA requires the law to be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption from public access must be interpreted narrowly.
MPCS must respond to your request within five working days. "Day One" is considered the day after your request is received. The five working days do not include weekends or holidays.
The reason for your request is irrelevant, and MPCS will not ask why you are making a request for records; however, FOIA does allow MPCS to ask you to provide your name, legal address and clarification of any request.
FOIA requires MPCS to make one of the following responses in writing to your request within five working days:
Provide the requested records in their entirety. In this instance, none of the records are subject to a statutory exemption and therefore can be released in their entirety.
Withhold all of the requested records. In this instance, all of the records are subject to a statutory exemption. MPCS’s response will identify the volume and subject matter of the records being withheld, and cite the specific Code of Virginia section that authorizes withholding the records.
Provide some of the records, but withhold other records. In this instance, only some of the records are subject to a statutory exemption. MPCS’s response will identify the subject matter and cite the specific Code of Virginia section that authorizes withholding the records.
Requested records could not be found or do not exist. FOIA does not require the creation of records that do not exist, and it does not require the production of information that is not a part of records or documents.
If it is practically impossible to provide the requested records or to determine whether they are available within five working days, in accordance with Va. Code § 2.2-3704(B)(4), MPCS’s response will invoke an extension for an additional seven working days to provide one of the above responses.
If your request is for an extraordinarily high volume of records, requires an extraordinarily lengthy search, or is of a nature that will disrupt the MPCS’s operational responsibilities, FOIA requires the requesting party and MPCS to make reasonable efforts to reach an agreement concerning the production of the records. If an agreement cannot be reached, MPCS will petition the court for additional time to respond to your request.
A request for records can be made by U.S. mail, fax, email, in-person or over the phone. FOIA does not require that a request be made in writing, nor does it need to specifically reference FOIA; however, MPCS’s preferred method of receiving requests are in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
To ensure that your request can be processed efficiently, your request should contain the following requirements:
Your request must identify the records you are seeking with "reasonable specificity." This is a common-sense standard. It does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records that you are requesting; instead, it requires enough detail to be provided so that the University can identify and locate the records being sought.
Your request must ask for existing records or documents. FOIA permits you to inspect or copy existing records. FOIA does not require the creation of records that do not exist, and it does not require the production of information that is not a part of records or documents.
Your request may ask to receive electronic records in any format used by MPCS in the regular course of business. For example, if you are requesting records maintained in an Excel database, you may elect to receive those records electronically, via e-mail, on a computer disk or printed.
FOIA requires reasonable efforts to be made between the requesting person and MPCS to reach an agreement concerning the production of records. Va. Code § 2.2-3704(C). It may be necessary to discuss your request to ensure that the nature and scope of your request is fully understood. Making a FOIA request is not an adversarial process, so cooperation with MPCS’s efforts to clarify the type of records being sought is important.
Please direct your request for records to:
Office of the Superintendent
Attn: Pamela Blake
Manassas Park City Schools
One Park Center Court, Suite A
Manassas Park, VA 20111-2395
Phone: (703) 335-8850
Fax: (703) 361-4583
MPCS is entitled to recover its actual costs incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying or searching for records you have requested, including, but not limited to, the costs of reviewing records to determine whether or not they may be released or are exempt under FOIA. Va. Code §2.2-3704(F).
You have the right to request that any charges be estimated in advance. The estimate is not a fixed amount. Actual costs may be greater or less than the estimated amount. In such a case, MPCS will refund any overage paid or invoice for additional payment. If we estimate that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, we may require you to pay a deposit before proceeding with your request. The statutory periods for response times are held in abeyance pending the resolution of cost issues.
If any fees owed to MPCS for FOIA Services remain unpaid for 30 days or more after billing, MPCS may require you to pay outstanding fees before processing any of your subsequent FOIA requests. Va. Code § 2.2-3704(I).
The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure.
Manassas Park City Schools commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:
- Scholastic records. Va. Code §2.2-3705.4.
- Letters of recommendation. Va. Code §2.2-3705.4(2).
- Faculty proprietary information. Va. Code §2.2-3705.4(4).
- Personnel records. Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1(1).
- Records subject to attorney-client privilege or attorney work product. Va. Code §§ 2.2-3705.1(2) and 2.2-3705.1(3).
- Vendor proprietary information. Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1(6).
- Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded. Va. Code § 2.2-3705.1(12).
- Public safety, health and social services. Va. Code §§ 2.2-3705.2 and 2.2-3705.5.
For more information: Virginia FOIA Council