The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA)


  • Thank you for visiting the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) VFOIA webpage.  We are committed to providing information that stakeholders request in a timely, efficient manner.  To help us accomplish that objective, we have developed this comprehensive website focused on facilitating Virginia Freedom of Information Act requests.  LCPS strives to deliver the highest level of service to our stakeholders while adhering to Virginia Code.  We are confident you will find our Public Records Center to be resourceful, informative, and efficient.

    We encourage anyone wishing to inspect or copy LCPS records to review the below information before filing a request.

    What is FOIA?

    Rights and Responsibilities Overview

    Your FOIA Rights

    Costs Associated with Requests

    What Happens After My Request is Made?

    Responding to Your Request

     

    What is FOIA?
    The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA) is the state law governing access by citizens of Virginia and representatives of the media to public records and to meetings of public bodies, as defined in the act. VFOIA provides that, subject to some limited, specific exemptions, meetings of public bodies shall be open to the public and public records shall be open for public inspection. All meetings of public bodies and public records are presumed open unless an exemption has been invoked. Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) complies with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

     

    Rights & Responsibilities Overview
    As set forth in § 2.2-3700 of the Code of Virginia, the purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of public body activities. The Freedom of Information Act of the Code of Virginia guarantees residents of the Commonwealth access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees. In furthering this policy, FOIA requires that the law be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption allowing public records to be withheld must be interpreted narrowly.  It is the policy of Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) to make public records available in accordance with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). 

     

    Your FOIA Rights
    Residents of the Commonwealth, and media outlets with distribution within the Commonwealth, have the right to request to inspect and/or receive copies of public records.  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. All public records are presumed to be open, and may only be withheld if a specific, statutory exemption applies.

    FOIA does not apply to a situation where you are asking general questions about the work of LCPS.  In addition, we are not required to create a new record if the record requested does not already exist.

     

    Costs Associated with Requests
    As explained in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, fees are often incurred to respond to FOIA requests. LCPS fees are calculated as allowed by the provisions in the Code of Virginia for V-FOIA, and in accordance with the fee charges outlined below. LCPS fees never exceed the actual cost incurred to search, access, duplicate, redact, review, or make requested records available. 

    You have the right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.  There is no cost to submit a public records request; however, per Virginia code § 2.2-3704, a public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. Loudoun County Public Schools FOIA Office makes reasonable charges for the actual costs incurred fulfilling FOIA requests, based on the pay scales of applicable personnel who will be handling the request. The cost of searching for or producing records may be waived as a courtesy within the discretion of LCPS, when the cost of record production is de minimis. The hourly minimum rate for any FOIA requests will be no lower than $23.55; however, the rate may increase based on the pay scale of the individual(s) assigned the request. 

    Requestors can ask that an estimate be provided in advance. If the estimated charge is more than $200, the District will provide an estimate in advance before doing any work.  In any case where a public body determines in advance that charges for producing the requested records are likely to exceed $200, the public body may, before continuing to process the request, require the requester to pay a deposit not to exceed the amount of the advance determination. If the estimate is less than $200 and the requestor did not ask for an estimate in advance, the request will be processed and an invoice will be sent with the response. 

    Before processing a request for records, a public body may require the requester to pay any amounts owed to the public body for previous requests for records that remain unpaid 30 days or more after billing. If the public body receives no response from the requester within 30 days of sending the cost estimate, the request shall be deemed to be withdrawn. 

     

    What happens after my request is made?
    Virginia FOIA laws require responses to public records requests to be sent within five (5) working days; however, it may not always be possible to fill requests for public records right away because records need to be reviewed first to see if they contain confidential information.  If the request is large or complex and it is not possible to produce the records within five working days, the FOIA office can invoke a seven (7) working day extension. 

    Working days include regular operational days of the school division. The day after the FOIA Officer receives the request is considered the first day of the five-working-day response period. The five-day period does not include weekends or holidays. A work day consists of Monday through Friday from the hours of 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 

    If a clarification is needed upon receiving the initial request because it is not reasonably specific, the five-day requirement does not begin until the clarification is received. If you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated, you may file a petition in district or circuit court.

     

    Responding to your request
    FOIA requires that public bodies make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:

    1. We provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.  This is referred to as a “full release.”

    2. We withhold all of the records that you have requested because all of the records are subject to specific statutory exemption(s). If all of the records are being withheld, we must send you a response in writing. That response must identify the volume and subject matter of the records being withheld and state the specific section(s) of the Code of Virginia that allows us to withhold the records.

    Common exemptions include, but are not limited to:

    • Student records (§ 2.2-3705.4(A) (1))

    • Matters related to personnel (§ 2.2-3705.1 (1))

    • Attorney-client privileged information (§ 2.2-3705.1 (2))

    • Certain personal contact information (§ 2.2-3705.1 (10))

    • Security procedures and protocol (§ 2.2-3705.2 (14))

    • Vendor proprietary information (§ 2.2-3705.1 (6))

    3. We provide some of the records that you have requested but withhold other records. We cannot withhold an entire record if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, we may redact the portion of the record that may be withheld and must provide you with the remainder of the record. We must provide you with a written response stating the specific section(s) of the Code of Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld.

    4. We inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist (we do not have the records that you want). However, if we know that another public body has the requested records, we must include contact information for the other public body in our response to you.

    5. If it is practically impossible for us to respond to your request within the five-day period, we must state this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible. This will allow us seven additional working days to respond to your request, giving us a total of 12 working days to respond to your request.

    6. We ask for clarification regarding your request.  A request for public records should be reasonably specific. This is a requirement of the Code of Virginia (§ 2.2-3704 Part B). While this does not refer to, or limit, the volume or number of records that can be requested, it requires that the requestor be reasonably specific enough with their request, so that the appropriate records can be identified and located. If the request is unclear or appears too broad, the LCPS FOIA Officer will contact the requester to understand exactly what public record is being sought. This will serve to minimize search time by LCPS personnel and save citizens time and cost in receiving and reviewing public records. Additional clarification can, however, lead to increased wait times for request fulfillment.

     

    Request