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What can you ask for with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request? Take this quiz to find out!

1. Private citizens never have the right to access government documents.
Incorrect. Under certain circumstances, citizens are entitled to request documents that the government has kept from the public eye.
Correct! Under the Freedom of Information Act (also known as FOIA), citizens have the right to request the disclosure of certain documents under the government’s control.
2. To which of the following parties could you send a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?
Correct! FOIA requests allow private citizens to request certain information from city councils.
Incorrect. A FOIA request will not be acceptable for trying to get information from private citizens.
Correct! A school district must comply with FOIA requests as long as doing so would not violate laws. An example of information a school district cannot release based on a FOIA request is a student’s health records.
Correct! Several news outlets are notorious for sending FOIA requests to people within the White House to receive information that it may be shielding from the public.
Incorrect. A FOIA request does not apply to private companies. So, a person could not send a FOIA request to Coca-Cola to request their recipe, which is a trade secret. FOIA allows individuals to request access to documents that are held by the government.
3. Once you send a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to a governmental party, that party must turn over all the material you requested.
Incorrect. Simply sending a FOIA request to a governmental party does not mean that the governmental party is required to comply with any or all parts of the request. Some materials are exempted from FOIA requests.
Correct! Generally speaking, the party who receives a FOIA request must comply within a specific time frame. But some material is exempted from FOIA requests, such as confidential national security information, trade secrets, medical files, and law enforcement records.
4. John calls the front office of his daughter’s high school because he is unhappy with the school’s technology policies. If John asks the principal for physical copies of the school’s technology use policies, does the school have to provide the information John requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?
Incorrect. A FOIA request must be in writing to meet the standards of the Freedom of Information Act.
Correct! To satisfy the Freedom of Information Act’s standards, a FOIA request must be in writing, and include the identification of the requester and specific details about the information requested.
5. How long does a governmental party have to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request?
Incorrect. Try again.
Incorrect. Try again.
Incorrect. Try again.
Correct! Once a party receives a FOIA request, it has 20 business days to respond to the requester with its intended course of action: that is, whether the party will answer the request, deny the request, or ask for an extension.
6. Deon sends a valid, written Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the local city council that seeks to obtain the mayor’s emails regarding the new recreational center that is under construction. The city council replies it can provide these emails, but it will be about 30 pages and will cost $200. Can the city council charge Deon $200 to print and mail 30 pages of correspondence?
Incorrect. While a party can charge a requester for the time and effort it takes to gather the information requested, $200 is likely not reasonable in this instance with how easily email can be collected and printed.
Correct! The city council can charge Deon, but it can only charge the lowest-paid hourly employee’s rate. This includes a janitor. So, if a janitor at the city council makes $10/hour, the city council can only charge Deon $200 if it took 20 hours to fulfill the FOIA request.