FOIA (Freedom of Information Act)

  • The Freedom of Information Act is the principle Illinois law governing the inspection of public records.

    Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests

    In compliance with State Law (5 ILCS 140/4), each school district is required to post specific information regarding the school district as part of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requirements. Such information is contained in the district's FOIA Poster, which is displayed at the Educational Service Center, each school, and other satellite facilities. If the information you are seeking is not found in this or other documents posted on this website, you may request copies of existing documents using the Request for Examination and/or Copies of Public Records Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act form (This form is provided for your convenience—its use is not required, however, all requests must be made in writing).

    For your convenience, please visit our Citizens Information Center page for a list of consolidated key information located in one place. Visit the Bids/Requests for Proposals page for a list of BIDs/RFPs and summary of the Board of Education's purchase results.

    The Freedom of Information Act is the principle Illinois law governing the inspection of public records. Originally enacted in 1984, it is based on the principle that the public should be able to access public records and information about the workings of their government. The principle mandate of the Act states that "each public body shall make available to any person for inspection and copying all public records."

    The Freedom of Information Act, however, does recognize that in order to enable public bodies to perform certain governmental functions properly, and in order to protect personal privacy, some records and information may need to be kept confidential. Examples of documents that are not considered open to the public include individual student records, materials that could compromise security if released, documents related to ongoing labor negotiations, some records related to litigation or other legal procedures, and others.

    Public Records

    Public records are defined in FOIA as "all records, reports, forms, writings, letters, memoranda, books, papers, maps, photographs, microfilms, cards, tapes, recordings, electronic data processing records, electronic communications, recorded information and all other documentary materials pertaining to the transaction of public business, regardless of physical form or characteristics, having been prepared by or for, or having been or being used by, received by, in the possession of, or under the control of any public body." Information may be available in electronic as well as paper format. All requests shall be made in writing and submitted to the FOIA Officer by mail, personal delivery, fax, or e-mail.

    Procedures for Requesting Records

    How do I submit an FOIA request?

    Requests for information must be made in writing. The District has provided for your convenience a form, Request for Examination and/or Copies of Public Records Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (This form is provided for your convenience—its use is not required). The form is also available at the District 15 Joseph M. Kiszka Educational Service Center, 580 N. 1st Bank Dr., Palatine.

    The written request should include the requestor's name, address, the date, and a daytime phone number so that the district can contact the requestor if they have any questions. Please provide as much information as possible on the subject matter in order to help expedite the search process.

    When completed, the request should be submitted to the district's FOIA Officer:

    Scott B. Thompson, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools
    Community Consolidated School District 15
    580 N. 1st Bank Drive
    Palatine IL 60067-8110

    Requests may also be emailed to: FOIA@ccsd15.net.

    Questions concerning requests may be directed to June Becker, Board of Education Recording Secretary, at BeckerJ@ccsd15.net, or 847-963-3208, or Min Goodwin, Senior Executive Assistant, at goodwinm@ccsd15.net, or 847-963-3209.

    How long will it take to get an answer to my request?

    When a written request for information is received, the district must comply within five working days. The Act provides, however, that under certain circumstances—for example if the requested records cannot be located in the course of a routine search and additional efforts must be made to locate them—the response time may be extended for up to five additional working days. If this happens, you will be notified by letter at the end of the first five days specifying the reason for the delay.

    Day 1 of the 5-day timeline is the first business day after the district receives the request. A "business day" or "working day" is a regular day of the week (Monday through Friday) when public offices and most businesses are open. Saturdays, Sundays, and state holidays are not business days and cannot be counted in the 5 business day time period.

    That time period may be extended for an additional 5 business days from the date of the original due date if:

    • The requested information is stored at a different location;
    • The request requires the collection of a substantial number of documents;
    • The request requires an extensive search;
    • The requested records have not been located and require additional effort to find;
    • The requested records need to be reviewed by staff who can determine whether they are exempt from FOIA;
    • The requested records cannot be produced without unduly burdening the district or interfering with its operations; or
    • The request requires the district to consult with another public body that has substantial interest in the subject matter of the request.

    If additional time is needed, the district will notify the requestor in writing within 5 business days after the receipt of the request of the statutory reasons for the extension and when the requested information will be produced.

    Is there a charge for copying records?

    When copies are requested, a public body may charge fees reasonably calculated to reimburse it for the actual cost of reproducing and certifying public records. The first 50 black and white pages are free; any additional pages cost 15 cents per page (letter or legal-size copies). Color copies are 47 cents for letter-size; 49 cents for legal-size, or 51 cents for tabloid-size copies, single-sided. Information produced on a CD will be provided at the actual cost of copying.

    The fundamental right guaranteed by the Act is the right of inspection. While you may obtain copies of records requests, you are not required to purchase copies of records in order to gain access to them. Documents may be furnished without charge or at a reduced fee where access is determined to be "in the public interest"—that is, if the primary purpose of the request is to disseminate information for the benefit of the general public and not for personal or commercial benefit.

    Commercial Requests

    A commercial request is when the requestor seeks to use part or all of the public records for sale, resale, or solicitation or advertisement for sales or services. Requests by the news media, not-for-profit organizations, scientific, or academic institutions are not considered commercial information requests. The district has 21 business days to respond to a request for information that is made for a commercial purpose. The district may either:

    1. Provide the requested records;
    2. Advise when the records will be provided and the costs;
    3. Deny the request (if it falls under an exception); or
    4. Advise the requestor that the request is unduly burdensome.

    The FOIA law has a presumption that all information is public but there are several exceptions to public disclosure that include but are not limited to:

    • Private information—"Private information" is exempt from disclosure under FOIA. FOIA defines "private information" as "unique identifiers, including a person's social security number, driver's license number, employee identification number, biometric identifiers, personal financial information, passwords or other access codes, medical records, home or personal telephone numbers, and personal e-mail addresses." Under FOIA, "private information also includes home addresses and personal license plate numbers, except as otherwise provided by law or when compiled without possibility of attribution to any person."

    • Personal information that, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless the person who is the subject of the information consents to the disclosure in writing. Under FOIA, the "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy" means the "disclosure of information that is highly personal or objectionable to a reasonable person and in which the subject's right to privacy outweighs any legitimate public interest in obtaining the information." Disclosing information that relates to the public duties of public employees is not considered an invasion of personal privacy.

    • Information that, if disclosed, might endanger anyone's life or physical safety.

    • Preliminary drafts or notes in which opinions are expressed or policies are formulated, unless the record is publicly cited and identified by the superintendent or school board.

    • Business trade secrets or commercial or financial information that is proprietary, privileged or confidential and disclosure would cause competitive harm to the person or business.

    • Proposals and bids for any contract, until a final selection is made.

    • Requests that are "unduly burdensome." A request may be considered unduly burdensome if there is no way to narrow the request, and the burden on the public body to produce the information outweighs the public interest in the information. However, before relying on this exemption, the public body must first give the requestor an opportunity to reduce the request to a manageable size. If it is still unduly burdensome, the public body must explain in writing the reasons why the request is unduly burdensome and the extent to which compliance will burden the operations of the public body. Such a response is considered a denial.

    What if the district doesn't have the particular record I'm requesting?

    As a general rule, the district cannot be required to create records to respond to request for information that it doesn't ordinarily maintain in record form. Additionally, the district is under no duty to recreate records that it no longer possesses, so long as those records were not disposed of to avoid compliance with the law.

    Denial of FOIA Request

    If the district determines that a denial of the request is justified, the requestor will be informed in writing, and reference to the specific legal reason under FOIA justifying non-disclosure will be provided. The requestor has the right to seek review of the issue by the Public Access Counselor (PAC) in the Attorney General's office, as well as the right to seek judicial review by filing a court case.

    A Request for Review is a letter that a requestor may submit to the PAC if they believe that the district has not followed FOIA. This letter is a formal way of asking the PAC to take a look at the request and the district's response (or lack thereof) and determine if a FOIA violation has occurred. The request must be in writing, must be signed by the requestor, and must include a copy of the FOIA request for access to records and any responses from the district. It must be submitted within 60 calendar days of the district's final response (or date upon which the response was due).

    The Public Access Counselor is a part of the Public Access Bureau in the Attorney General's Office and may be contacted at:

    Public Access Bureau
    500 S. 2nd Street
    Springfield, Illinois 62706
    217-558-0486
    publicaccess@atg.state.il.us