• Rights & Responsibilities

    The Rights of Requesters and the Responsibilities of Stafford County Public Schools under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act

    The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located at § 2.2-3700 et seq. of the  Code of Virginia, guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials and public employees.

    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 record in 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 to the public and may only be withheld if a specific statutory exemption applies.

    The policy of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities. 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.

    FOIA Rights

    • Citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media have the right to request to inspect or receive copies of public records, or both. (Print media must have circulation in the Commonwealth and television/radio stations must broadcast in or into the Commonwealth).

    • Citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media have the right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.

    • If a citizen of the Commonwealth or representative of the media believes that their FOIA rights have been violated, the citizen or media representative may file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA. Alternatively, they may contact the FOIA Council for a nonbinding advisory opinion.

    Making a Request for Records from Stafford County Public Schools

    • Records may be requested by U.S. mail, fax, e-mail, in person or over the phone. FOIA does not require that a request be in writing, nor that it specifically state that records are being requested under FOIA.

    • As a practical matter, it may be helpful to both the requestor and the person receiving the request to put the request in writing. This creates a record of the request. It also gives us a clear statement of what records are requested, so that there is no misunderstanding over a verbal request. However, Stafford Schools cannot refuse to respond to a FOIA request if it is not put in writing.

    • A request must identify the records sought with “reasonable specificity.” It does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records requested; instead, it requires the requestor to be specific enough so that Stafford Schools can identify and locate the records that are requested.

    • A request must ask for existing records or documents. FOIA creates a right to inspect or copy records; it does not apply to general questions about the work of Stafford County Public Schools, nor does it require Stafford County Public Schools to create a record that does not exist.

    • A requestor may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by Stafford County Public Schools in the regular course of business. For example, if requested records are maintained in an Excel file, the requestor may elect to receive those records electronically, via e-mail, or on a computer disk, or to receive a printed copy of those records.

    • If Stafford Schools has questions about a request, please cooperate with staff’s efforts to clarify the type of records sought, or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement about a response to a large request. Stafford Schools may need to discuss a request to ensure that Stafford Schools understand what records are being sought.

    The Office of Constituent Services is tasked with responding to FOIA requests. To request records from Stafford County Public Schools, contact the FOIA Officer at:

    Dr. James Stemple
    Executive Director of Constituent Services
    31 Stafford Avenue
    Stafford, VA 22554
    (540) 658-6000

    In addition, the FOIA Advisory Council is available to answer questions about FOIA. The Council may be contacted by e-mail at foiacouncil@dls.virginia.gov or by phone at (804) 698-1810 or 1-866-448-4100.

    Stafford County Public Schools’ Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request

    Stafford County Public Schools must respond to a request within five (5) working days of receiving it. “Day One” is considered the day after the request is received. The five working day period does not include weekends or holidays.

    The reason behind a request for public records from Stafford County Public Schools is irrelevant and a requestor does not have to state why they want the records before Stafford Schools respond to the request. FOIA does, however, allow Stafford County Public Schools to require a requestor to provide their name and legal address.

    FOIA requires that Stafford County Public Schools make one of the following responses to a request within the five working day time period:

    1. Stafford Schools provide the records requested in their entirety.

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

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

    4. Stafford Schools inform the requestor in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist. However, if Stafford Schools knows that another public body has the requested records, the school system must include contact information for the other public body in its response.

    5. If it is practically impossible for Stafford County Public Schools to respond to the request within the 5 work day period, Stafford Schools must state this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible. This will allow Stafford Schools seven (7) additional working days to respond to the request, giving Stafford Schools a total of twelve (12) working days to respond to the request.

    If a request is made for a very large number of records and Stafford Schools cannot provide the records within twelve (12) working days without disrupting other organizational responsibilities, the school system may petition the court for additional time to respond to the request. However, FOIA requires that Stafford Schools make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with the requestor concerning the production of the records before the school system formally requests more time.


    Except with regard to scholastic records requested pursuant to subdivision A 1 of Va. Code § 2.2-3705.4 that must be made available for inspection pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232g) and such requests for scholastic records by a parent or legal guardian of a minor student or by a student who is 18 years of age or older, Stafford County Public Schools may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying or searching for the requested records and makes all reasonable efforts to supply the requested records at the lowest possible cost. Stafford County Public Schools does not impose any extraneous, intermediary or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the schools. Any duplicating fee charged by Stafford County Public Schools will not exceed the actual cost of duplication. Prior to conducting a search for records, Stafford County Public Schools notifies the requestor in writing that it may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for requested records and inquires of the requestor whether the requestor would like to request a cost estimate in advance of the supplying of the requested records as set forth in Va. Code § 2.2-3704.F. A requestor may request that Stafford County Public Schools estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records requested. This will allow the requestor to know about any costs upfront, or give the requestor the opportunity to modify the request in an attempt to lower the estimated costs.

    The requestor may have to pay for the records requested from Stafford County Public Schools. FOIA allows Stafford Schools to charge for the actual costs of responding to FOIA requests. This includes items like staff time spent searching for the requested records, copying costs or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records. It does not include general overhead costs. Any costs incurred by the Stafford County Public Schools in estimating the cost of supplying the requested records will be applied toward the overall charges to be paid by the requestor for the supplying of such requested records.

    The following forms of payment are accepted: checks or money orders made payable to Stafford County Public Schools.  Electronic payments are not available. 

    If it is expected to cost more than $200 to respond to a request, Stafford Schools may require the requestor to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with the request. The five working days that Stafford Schools has to respond to the request does not include the time between when the school system asks for a deposit and when the requestor responds.

    If a balance is due from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, Stafford County Public Schools may require payment of the past-due bill before responding to a new FOIA request.

    How Charges are Determined

    The FOIA Officer, after receiving a request for records, promptly determines whether any requested documents exist and, if they do, the number and location of those records. Where a portion of individual records must be redacted prior to inspection and copying, the cost of doing this is taken into account. The following costs are charged at the rates indicated, not to exceed actual cost:

    • Computer printouts - Charged at a rate of $.20 per page 

    • Staff member search time, charged by the quarter hour; depending on the staff member(s) involved in the search, rates of $8.33 to $13.02 per quarter hour may apply

    • Computer search time, charged at the rate of $8.33 per quarter hour

    • Redaction - Charged at a rate of $5.55 per quarter hour

    • Postage - If the requesting party desires the records to be shipped or mailed, the actual cost of such postage shall be charged to the requestor.

    • Labor - For basic preparation of requests such as photocopying, duplication, redaction, and mailing, Stafford County Schools will charge a standard administrative hourly rate of $33.33.

    • Photocopies (including those necessary to perform redactions), charged at the rate of $.20 per page

    • Legal Review - If the request requires legal review to assure that the records are responsive, are not exempt from disclosure, and may be disclosed without violating any other provisions of law, charged at a rate of $65.10 per hour.

    Types of Records

    The following is a general description of the types of records held by Stafford Public Schools:

    • Personnel records concerning employees and officials of Stafford Public Schools

    • Scholastic records 

    • Business and finance records

    • Operational records involving support departments such as Technology, Transportation, Facilities, Food Services, etc.

    • Agendas, minutes and other records of the meetings of the School Board and committees appointed by the School Board. This information is also available on the school system's, website at www.staffordschools.net.

    • Records of contracts to which Stafford County Public Schools is a party.

    Commonly Used Exemptions

    The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. Stafford County Public Schools commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions in the Code of Virginia:

    • Personnel records (§ 2.2-3705.1 (1))

    • Records subject to attorney-client privilege (§ 2.2-3705.1 (2)) or attorney work product (§ 2.2-3705.1 (3))

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

    • Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded (§ 2.2-3705.1 (12))

    • Records related to critical incident response (§ 2.2-3705.2 (14))

    • Scholastic records (§ 2.2-3705.4(1) and 20 U.S.C. § 1232g)

    Practice Regarding the Use of Exemptions

    Since exemptions exist in order to protect some compelling public interest, it is inevitable that the school division will need to rely on exemptions in many cases. For that reason, it is the school division’s practice to invoke all exemptions that are applicable to any request for records. This practice ensures that all citizens are treated the same way, to the greatest extent possible.

    • The general policy of Stafford County Public Schools is to invoke the personnel records exemption in those instances where it applies in order to protect the privacy of employees and officials of Stafford County Public Schools.

    • The general policy of Stafford County Public Schools is to invoke the contract negotiations exemption whenever it applies in order to protect Stafford County Public Schools bargaining position and negotiating strategy.

    • The general policy of Stafford County Public Schools is to invoke the scholastic records exemption in those instances where it applies in order to protect the privacy of students and comply with other state and federal laws governing the privacy of student records.

    This notice complies with the posting requirements of Va. Code § 2.2-3704.1.

FOIA Officer

Requests for Video

  • Stafford Schools does not release video. However, requesters may request to view a video clip with an administrator in the student’s school or by filling out the FOIA Request Form.  All video clips require to be prepared according to FERPA. Once the video is prepared, the requestor will be notified by the school administrator or Office of Constituent Services to schedule a time and place to view the video.