What is the Public Records Act?
RCW 42.56.070 requires each agency to make available for inspection and copying non-exempt public records in accordance with the Public Records Act (PRA). The purpose of the Act is to provide the public full access to information concerning the conduct of government, mindful of individuals’ privacy rights. View the Public Records Act.
What is a public record?
The PRA defines a public record as "any writing containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics."
Any person wishing to inspect or obtain public records should make the request in writing on the Spokane Public Schools Public Records Request Form. The request should include the requestor’s name, contact information, detailed description of the record, and date of the request. For assistance in submitting a request, please call (509) 354-7272.
How do I know which records to ask for?
If you’re not sure what to request, feel free to call (509) 354-7272 for assistance. If you can tell us what it is you’re looking for, we can help identify the record you need or the staff member who can provide the information.
Under Public Records laws, a requestor is not required to identify the exact record he/she seeks, but is required to request an “identifiable record.” An “identifiable record” is one that agency staff can reasonably locate.
How can I get the records I need quickly?
The district receives and processes many records requests every month. If you would like to obtain records quickly, the following information may help:
- Focus on specific records you need. For example, “Minutes from the October 1, 2014 Bus Safety Task Force Committee meeting."
- Provide clear, specific details about the records you are seeking.
- Avoid making an overly-broad request. For example, if you want to know how much the district spent on a particular item, identifying the item and approximate time it was purchased would allow the district to respond much more quickly and efficiently than requesting records of all expenditures for an undetermined period of time.
- Depending on the nature/volume of anticipated records responsive to your request, the district may need to respond to your request in installments. Please provide any guidance as to whether you have a preference or priority set of documents (e.g. records from a specific date range, records from a specific department/staff member, records on one particular subject before another, etc.). Such clarification will allow the district to prioritize the process in order to gather all responsive records and provide them to you in the most efficient manner possible.
- A broad and unclear request will take longer to process and may require additional clarification. If you are unsure which records might contain information you are specifically looking for, please contact us for assistance.
- Avoid using phrases such “regarding” or “related to” when describing records. Those inexact phrases often cause a delay because records you think are “related” could be different from what the district thinks are “related.” A more precise request is for “records that discuss [insert your subject here].”
- If you have any questions about how to identify records, please call 509-354-7272 and we will be happy to assist you.
What about emails and electronic records?
Thousands of emails are sent from and received by the district on a daily basis and are maintained on the district’s centrally archived email system. Please keep in mind that email records take longer to process than other records requests.
If your request includes emails or other electronic records, it is helpful to provide a specific the date range and suggest search terms that will allow the district to locate and assemble identifiable records responsive to your request.
Please note, as a school district, many emails contain student names for a variety of reasons: Class lists, schedules and information, school or class newsletters, state reporting data, for example. Many emails specifically discuss a student issues, education, assignments, etc. The district will need additional time to process requests for emails because of the need to review and redact (black out student names or exempt information).
What is the district’s policy on disclosure of public records?
It is the School Board’s policy to disclose public records pursuant to the public records laws.
How does the district process public records requests?
The Public Records Act governs each agency to provide access to public records and protect records from damage. The district will provide the fullest assistance to requestors, and provide a timely response to public records requests. The public records officer or designee will process requests in the order allowing the most requests to be processed in the most efficient manner and without excessive interference with other essential functions of the district.
Within five business days of receipt of the request, the public records officer will do one or more of the following:
- Acknowledge receipt of request and provide a reasonable estimate of when records will be available; or
- Make the records available for inspection or copying; or
- Seek clarification of request if the request is unclear or does not sufficiently identify the requested records. Such clarification may be requested and provided by telephone; or
- Deny the request.
I want some information but don’t know how to get it. Should I just fill out a request form?
You may complete and submit a Public Records Request Form, but you may be able to obtain the information much more quickly by speaking with district staff. If you have questions and are unsure who you should speak to, please call our office. We would be happy to discuss your concerns with you and point you in the right direction to obtain the information you are seeking.