Public Records Requests
The public records of the Wake County Public School System are governed by the state of North Carolina’s Public Records Act, General Statute 132. The Communications Department is responsible for ensuring that all public records requests are handled in a timely and uniform manner.
What is a public record?
Public records are documentary materials made or received by government agencies in North Carolina in carrying on public business. Public records include materials written or created by WCPSS and its employees. They also include materials written or made by private people or companies and submitted to WCPSS regardless of whether those materials were required or requested by WCPSS or whether they were sent WCPSS voluntarily at the private person’s initiative.
Public records include paper and electronic documents, emails, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics.
Indexes of computer databases are public records. Indexes include information about data fields and lists of data fields. The indexing rule does not require a government agency to create a database it has not already created.
See page 3, Part I, of The Public Records Act of the NC Guide to Open Government and Public Records.
Procedures for handling public records requests
- WCPSS will respond to public records requests whether the request is written or verbal.
- WCPSS will acknowledge receipt of the request verbally or in writing. Requesters may be asked to put request in writing, however, if the requester declines, WCPSS will honor the verbal request.
- If a WCPSS employee believes it would help to ensure the accuracy of the department’s response, the requester may be asked for the intended use of the information requested, but the requester is not obligated to give this information.
- If a request is ambiguous or overly broad, WCPSS will give you an opportunity to revise the request and explain how the records are maintained and accessed by the department.
- If the requested record contains information that is exempt, WCPSS will make available the portion of the record that is not exempt and clearly redact the exempt portion of the record.
- If the request is denied in whole or in part (by redaction), WCPSS will provide the requester with an explanation of the denial, which includes the legal authority of the denial. If the original request was in writing, the explanation of the denial will also be in writing.
- Documents will be prepared and made available for inspection. If the requester wants copies of the documents, WCPSS may respond by electronic mail or other means if the requester has no objection.
- WCPSS will respond to public records requests within a reasonable amount of time. What is a reasonable amount of time depends upon such factors as the extent of the request and physical location of the documents.
Examples Of Records Exempt From Disclosure Under The Public Records Act
- Confidential student data is not included; examples include references to the child’s health conditions, grades, IEPs or discipline issues
- Confidential employee information; examples include home address and date-of-birth.
- Attorney-client emails are excluded
How are the records collected? Requests for email records are collected from our computer email servers in an electronic format. Requests for non-email records are collected from electronic and hardcopy sources.
How are records redacted? If your record contains information that is not a public information, the non-public information will be redacted. Whenever possible, we try to redact electronically from electronic files. If this is not possible, the filed is printed out, and manually redacted with a black marker, then re-copied to ensure the information is not readable
What is redacted? The most commonly redacted data are the names of children, or information that could be used to identify them -- special needs of a student or disciplinary actions. Other items that could need redaction are employee data and items that are protected by attorney-client privilege
How long does it take to redact? Time needed for the redaction process can vary greatly, based on the number of documents in the request.
How will the request be provided? Whenever possible, we try to provide documents in an electronic format, generally on a USB flash drive or CDROM. However, not all documents originate in a digital format, and will be provided in hardcopy.
Are public records requests themselves public records? Yes.
- Guide to Open Government and Public Records
- NC GS Chapter 132
- NC GS Chapter 115c Elementary and Secondary Education
- NC GS Chapter 143 Article 33c Meetings of Public Bodies
Communications: (919) 431-7010