West Chicago FOIA Controversy

A Freedom of Information Act request at West Chicago Elementary has found FOIA regulations at odds with federal student privacy laws.

The teachers union filed a request Jan. 15 for documents that included student contact information, and concerned parents spoke out against FOIA regulations that would allow student addresses to be released.

The union says it was looking to consolidate parent contact information and had no intention of contacting students.

From the Daily Herald:

While the FOIA includes an exemption for home addresses, the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act allows “directory” information, such as a student’s name, address, telephone number and date and place of birth, to be disclosed without consent as long as yearly notice is provided to parents. That contradiction required District 33 to reply to a FOIA request the teachers union filed Jan. 30 seeking “directory contact information, including names and home addresses, by school, for all District 33 students.”

But [Tom Terranova an Illinois Education Association staff member who submitted the request on behalf of the District 33 teachers union] says the district’s rhetoric to parents mischaracterized what the union wanted and why it filed the request. A news release the district issued Feb. 5 said the union was seeking student contact information and offered parents a way to ensure their child’s name and address would not be released. It says the district received the Jan. 30 FOIA request for student contact information, but does not mention the union’s original request for a way to contact parents.

“What we wanted was a way to send information and communicate directly with parents. That’s all we ever wanted and the district was well aware of that,” Terranova said. “When this was presented in an ominous way, that surprised us.”