Informal Requests to Information

The board of education (board) can choose to disregard the requirement for a formal request in situations where a more informal process is preferred. Board policy or procedures should set out the types of informal requests that will be allowed. Typically this would include simple requests or requests by individuals for access to their own information, such as:

  • requests to view or obtain copies of public records;
  • requests by employees to view their own files; or
  • requests by parents to review their children’s records in cases where there are no exceptional circumstances or specific concerns about the privacy interests of the children.

Informal access will not require use of an LAFOIP application form, payment of fees or a formal written response by the board. However, in the case of access to personal information the fact that access was given or denied should be recorded.

It is important to note that an official access request under the Act is not always necessary to provide an individual with a copy of their record. Please check with your supervisor or your LAFOIP Coordinator or Privacy Officer for more information.

If there is any doubt about whether or not informal access is appropriate, the formal process should be used.

Informal Application by Students and Parents

An oral request by a parent to review a file or obtain copies of documents on a student file will be sufficient in most circumstances. It would be advisable to have protocols in place that would indicate when such requests would need to be approved by someone other that the teacher or the principal.

Generally speaking there are three levels of disclosure that might be considered:

1. Requests that can be filled without further permission from a principal:

    • copies of newsletters or other public documents; or
    • information available on a website

2. Requests that might require consultation with the principal:

    • report cards;
    • attendance records;
    • classroom work; and
    • copies of consultants’ reports.

These records can be released informally as long as:

    • school staff are sure the applicant has a parental role – there is joint custody or the school has a copy of an agreement or court order stating that the requesting person has custody or access; and
    • the release of the information will not interfere with the privacy rights of the student ( usually not an issue for this type of information but may be so with older students)

3. Requests that will usually require consultation with central office staff. This would include any requests where there is any concern about the individual’s right to access the file. These types of situations may include:

    • the application includes a request for an opinion about a student;
    • there is uncertainty about the right of the applicant to have the information;
    • there is uncertainty about whether or not the release of the information is in the best interests of the student;
    • request for an affidavit;
    • request for something that would be presented in court;
    • request from a lawyer; or
    • any other request that seems a bit odd or unusual.

For these types of requests the school should at minimum require a written request for the information and in many cases it would be best to use the formal application process under LAFOIP.

Even in the case where a request is dealt with informally a note should be made on the file of the request. If copies of documents are requested the copying fee can still be charged.

Extent of Right to Access Student Files

The right of access applies to any record kept on the student. It applies to all files kept on the student, whether by the teacher, the school or central office.