- In custody and access situations which parent can make educational decisions for a student?
- When does the board of education need to get permission to release information about students?
- How should the board of education obtain this permission?
- When does the board of education need to get permission from employees to release information?
- Does the school have to allow the media to interview students or staff?
- What if the school wants the media at the school?
- What kinds of things can employees talk about with the media?
- What types of information should regularly be sent to the media?
The information provided should not be regarded as legal advice. If you have questions about a specific fact situation please contact legal counsel.
- Any information that is not personal or confidential can be shared with the media in the same way it can be shared with other members of the community. This includes all announcements, approved minutes of board of education (board) meeting, press releases, and all public documents. The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LAFOIP) applies and the media has access to any information that can be released under the provisions of LAFOIP. The application forms and fees under LAFOIP can be applied to media requests if there is uncertainty as to whether or not the requested information can be released.
- LAFOIP requires consent before any personal information can be released. Under LAFOIP educational information is deemed to be personal information and therefore virtually all information about a student cannot be released unless there is consent from the student or parent. This would include photographs of the student, lists of students obtaining awards, lists of graduates and so on.
- The board should obtain consent in writing. Consent can be provided on a case by case basis or can be obtained on a yearly basis during registration. The consent should clearly set out what type of information might be used, how it might be used and who might receive the information. The consent should be renewed every year in case the situation or wishes of the individual change. For younger students the permission of the parent will be sufficient. For older students, usually high school age, permission should also be obtained from the individual student.
- With regard to employees, section 23(2)(a) of LAFOIP provides that certain records such as names of employees and limited contract information can be released without permission. Employers could, for example, release to the media or publish on a website a list of employees and their job descriptions. The board could not, however, post or release photographs of the employees without their permission unless it was a clear requirement of the job. However, considering contract information is often stored in conjunction with personal information which cannot be released, specific advice should be sought for these types of requests. Even if a board can release information without permission consultation with the employee should take place beforehand. There may be unique circumstances requiring caution. Any employee can provide written consent for the release of his or her own personal information to the media.
- The principal, the director of education or the board has the right to exclude anyone, including media, from school property. The potential disruptive effect of media presence is sufficient justification for this step. Employees who wish to speak to the media can be advised to do so off school property and outside of school hours. It is recommended that guidelines be developed for the division that will assist both the media and board employees to understand the appropriate way to deal with events of public interest.
- If the media are asked to attend an event, school officials should make clear to the media whether or not they have the consent of students, parents and/or employees for photographs or interviews. If the school does not have written consent it should advise the representatives of the media. The media can then take whatever steps necessary to obtain the consents they require. Steps should be taken in the case of students to ensure that they are not interviewed without understanding the nature of the situation. Younger students should not be interviewed without parental permission.
- Employees and volunteers are expected not to release or speak about any confidential or personal information they learn through their employment. Unless an employee has specific written permission the employee cannot give information to the media about individual students, other employees, administrators or trustees. If an employee is aware of third party confidential information, of information about deliberations of a board, or about the business affairs of the board the employee cannot share that information. If there is an emergency situation at a school it may be difficult for an employee to assess what information is confidential and what is not. In emergency situations it is recommended that board policy require employees to refer all media requests to the spokesperson for the board. If there is no particular person designated to deal with the particular issue then all requests should passed to the director of education.
- Developing an ongoing relationship with the local media can be assisted by providing information such as:
- Times of board meetings and agendas.
- Board meeting minutes when approved.
- This can include any non-confidential documents referred to in minutes that will help give context
- Press releases about significant events.
- Ensure the board has obtained any necessary releases and advise the media it has done so.
When providing the media with invitations to events at the school include information about whether or not releases have been obtained. Include the name of the spokesperson and ensure that staff are clear on who to contact.