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ERIC Number: ED558569
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Nov-4
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Obtaining Public Records: Reporter Guide
Hammond, Betsy
Education Writers Association
Obtaining public records is essential to covering public education. Fortunately, the law is on the side of reporters: Public agencies generally must disclose their records to the public and to the media--with important exceptions. Public agencies are often reluctant to hand over records, however, even when the law clearly says they should. Sometimes they don't know or understand the laws well; other times, they just don't want their information in the public eye. Reporters need to be familiar with state and federal records laws and, in consultation with their editors, skillfully use those laws to get maximum transparency from schools, school districts, universities, education departments and other public agencies. State and federal courts repeatedly have ruled that releasing education records is in the public interest and that schools and universities must cut back on their overly imaginative conceptions of how releasing de-identified student records might violate The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). An excellent example of that is the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in a case brought by J. Marshall Osborn, (link who asked the University of Wisconsin to provide him with the GPA, test scores, class rank, gender, and race or ethnicity of all admitted and rejected applicants. If an agency cites FERPA as a reason it can't provide you with public records, be prepared to insist it make a solid written case for how the information could disclose education records about a particular student. [This guide was made possible in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.]
Education Writers Association. 2122 P Street NW Suite 201, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 202-452-9830; Fax: 202-452-9837; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Guides - Non-Classroom; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Education Writers Association
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act 1974