Welcome to the Stepnowski Law Library

The Law Office of Edward L. Stepnowski 
The Law Office of Francis E. Stepnowski 

Freedom of Information Act.  (FOIA)

   The Illinois Freedom of Information Act is codified at 5 ILCS 140/ sections 1 through 11. http://www.legis.state.il.us/legislation/ilcs/ch5/ch5act140.htm
    Sec. 1. Pursuant to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of government, it is declared to be the public policy of the State of Illinois that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them as public officials and public employees consistent with the terms of this Act. Such access is necessary to enable the people to fulfill their duties of discussing public issues fully and freely, making informed political judgments and monitoring government to ensure that it is being conducted in the public interest.

You can use a FOIA request to obtain information from any public entity in Illinois.  Some information is excluded if it is private.  In Bowie v. Evanston Community Consol. School Dist. No. 65, (1989) the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that schools cannot refuse to supply the information just by saying it concerns private information; they must comply with requests if they can redact out the personal and private information.  In that case, the parents of students attending that district's schools sought the disclosure of standardized test scores for students and a list of educational programs available in those schools. The school district was required to disclose record of achievement test scores under the FOIA in a masked and scrambled format.
For a complete discussion and analysis of the Act, see the Attorney General memo:

Student Records:
  Ibata v. Board of Education of Edwardsville Community School District No. 7, No. 5-05-0092 (May 12, 2006)
In this case, the trial court was reversed because it dismissed the complaint of the plaintiffs which alleged a  violation of the Student Records Act.  The plaintiff, a parent of disabled student, charged that the school failed to supply  her records.  The trial court dismissed the case since the parent did not exhaust administrative remedies. Although the Federal Indivduals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires exhaustion of remedies, the Illinois Student Records Act does not. However, the school district was entitled to summary judgment dismissing a claimed violation of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act and Student Records Act when District supplied its attorneys with records, because attorneys must have access to records in order to represent District. Further, the presence of records in a developmental pediatrician's records is not sufficient to overcome affidavits of District employees that they did not provide records to pediatrician; and entitled District summary judgment on that count of complaint.

The IDEA implementation regulations at 34 C.F.R. § 300.562 address parents' rights to access student educational records and provide, in relevant part:

(a) Each participating agency shall permit parents to inspect and review any education records
relating to their children that are collected, maintained, or used by the agency under this part.
The agency shall comply with a request without unnecessary delay and before any meeting
regarding an IEP, or any hearing pursuant to §§ 300.507 and 300.521- 300.528, and in no case
more than 45 days after the request has been made.
(b)(3) The right to have a representative of the parent inspect and review the records.

FERPA - Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act

This Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) provides
  • Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student's education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.

  • Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.

  • Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):

    • School officials with legitimate educational interest;
    • Other schools to which a student is transferring;
    • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
    • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
    • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
    • Accrediting organizations;
    • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
    • Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
    • State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

The Federal Freedom Of Information Act applies to Federal Agenies, and requires them to supply information:

(2) Each agency, in accordance with published rules, shall make available for public inspection and copying--

(A) final opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions, as well as orders, made in the adjudication of cases;

(B) those statements of policy and interpretations which have been adopted by the agency and are not published in the Federal Register;

(C) administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public;

(D) copies of all records, regardless of form or format, which have been released to any person under paragraph (3) and which, because of the nature of their subject matter, the agency determines have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records; and

(E) a general index of the records referred to under subparagraph (D)

5 U.S.C. sec. 552.  This section also spells out exceptions, fees, timelines and procedures.

Contact Us: 

1515 N. Harlem Ave., suite 205 
Oak Park, Illinois 60302 
telephone: (708) 848-3663, 848-3662 
fax: (708)  848-0219

email Edward Stepnowski 
email Frank Stepnowski