FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-03-00


October 2, 2000

Ms. Sally Ludwig
Staunton, VA

The staff of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your correspondence, unless otherwise indicated.

Dear Ms.Ludwig:

This will acknowledge receipt of your letter date August 21, 2000 wherein you requested information regarding the release of a "master list" compiled by the school administration at Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton, Virginia. You indicate that the "master list" is a listing of all courses offered for the next academic year, the times at which they are offered, and identifies the instructor who will be teaching each course. Specifically, you asked whether the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires the release of the "master list", even though that list may be subject to revision by the administration.

Section 2.1-340.1 reflects the policy of FOIA as enacted by the General Assembly. This section expressly provides that " unless a public body or public official specifically elects to exercise an exemption provided by this chapter or any other statute, every meeting shall be open to the public and all public records shall be available for inspection and copying upon request. All public records and meetings shall be presumed open, unless an exemption is properly invoked ."

FOIA defines "public record" as "all writings and recordings which consist of letters, words or numbers, or their equivalent, set down by handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostatting .however stored, and regardless of physical form or characteristics, prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business". This definition would include draft copies of public records. When FOIA was originally enacted in 1968, the definition of "public record" (then "official record") was limited to records of "completed actions or transactions." That qualifying language was deleted from FOIA in 1973 and, by implication, public records do not have to be in final form or approved to be subject to the mandatory disclosure requirements of FOIA.

Further, for the purposes of FOIA, "scholastic records" are defined as those records containing information directly related to a student and maintained by a public body which is an educational agency or institution or by a person acting for such agency or institution. (Emphasis added)

As I interpret the provisions referenced above, it is clear that the "master list", even one that is subject to revision, is a public record under FOIA and therefore subject to its mandatory disclosure requirements.

Thank you for contacting this office. I hope that I have been of assistance.


Maria J. K. Everett
Executive Director