You can do the same.
To investigate seclusion rooms in Ohio schools, we filed records requests with 100 public school districts, charter schools and state agencies. (Here’s our story about what we found out.)
There are hundreds of districts and schools that we weren’t able to get to. That’s where you come in.
How To Request Records
What you need: All you really need is an email address and about ten minutes, plus however long it takes to follow-up if your district doesn’t respond right away. A scanner might come in handy but is not necessary.
Step 1. Send Your Request.
- Identify the district, charter school or educational service center you want to investigate.
- Look at this table to see if it’s a district or school already covered in our investigation. If so, you might want to pick another district or school.
- Write your request by copying and pasting this letter into a blank email.
- Fill in the blanks with your name and contact information.
- Look up the school or district’s superintendent here and paste his or her email address into the “To:” field.
- Fill in the subject line (We suggest something like “Public Records Request – seclusion rooms.”)
- Hit send! (Good job.)
Step 2: Follow up if you don’t hear back from them right away.
- Your school or district may immediately send you the records you requested. If they do, skip to Step 3.
- But if you haven’t heard from your district or school within a week, send the superintendent a follow-up email. You can use this one as a model. If you still get no response, let us know.
- Once you have the records, you can move on to Step 3.
Step 3: Share what you know.
- Send your records to firstname.lastname@example.org. If they were emailed to you, you can just forward the email.
- If they arrive by snail mail, you can either scan them and then email them to us or put them in a new envelope and send them along to: Molly Bloom, StateImpact Ohio, c/o WKSU, 1613 East Summit Street, Kent, OH 44242.
We’ll post them online to share with others and update our tracking of how seclusion is used in Ohio schools.
Keep in Mind
- State law does not require public records requests to be in writing, but putting a request in writing can help avoid confusion. It also allows you to create a paper trail to refer back to if you don’t get an answer right away.
- State law does not require a person requesting public records to identify him or herself or, in most cases, explain why they want the documents. They are public. However, it is always helpful to provide contact information so that the school can get in touch if they have any questions about the request.
- The sample letter requests that any fee associated with compiling the documents be waived. However, schools might try to charge you for the actual cost of making the copies and/or postage. If this happens, ask if they can send you the records electronically. If they can’t and you find the cost unreasonable or unaffordable, let us know.
Any questions? Contact us.