Freedom of Information Act
The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a state law that provides the public with the right to gain access to government documents and records.
The premise behind FOIA is that members of the public have a right to know what their governmental institutions are doing — including their public schools and school districts.
How FOIA Works
Under FOIA, a person may ask a public body for a copy of its records on a specific subject, and the public body must provide those records unless there is an exemption in the statute that protects those records from disclosure.
As a public body, District 401 is subject to FOIA.
Full access to our nonexempt public records is available to any person, group, association, corporation, firm, partnership or organization as provided under FOIA and under District Policy 2:250, which explains the Board of Education's policy and procedures for access to District 401 public records.
District 401's Freedom of Information Officer
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nicolas Wade serves as District 401's Freedom of Information officer. He assumes all the duties and powers of that office as provided under FOIA (5 ILCS 140/3.5) and under District Policy 2:250.
The Freedom of Information officer receives FOIA requests submitted to the District, and he ensures that requests are handled in a timely fashion. He issues responses under the Act, and he completes a mandatory annual FOIA training program.
Where to Send FOIA Requests
FOIA requests concerning District 401 or any of its individual schools should be made in writing to the District’s Freedom of Information officer at the following address:
Dr. Nicolas Wade
Superintendent of Schools
Elmwood Park CUSD 401
8201 W. Fullerton Ave.
Elmwood Park, IL 60707
Optional Request Form
Although members of the public are not required to use a specific form when submitting a FOIA request, District 401 has prepared a request form that may be downloaded and submitted for this purpose:
Definition of "Public Records"
The District's public records are defined as records, reports, forms, writings, letters, memoranda, books, papers, maps, photographs, microfilms, cards, tapes, recordings, electronic data processing records, electronic communications, recorded information and all other documentary material pertaining to the transaction of public business, regardless of physical form or characteristics, having been prepared by or for, or having been or being used by, received by, in the possession of, or under the control of the School District. (See District Policy 2:250 and FOIA, 5 ILCS 140/2c.)
How to Request Public Records
A request for inspection and/or copies of District 401 public records must be made in writing.
The request may be submitted by personal delivery, mail, telefax or email directed to the District's Freedom of Information officer. (See "Where to Send FOIA Requests" below for the address and fax number.)
Individuals making a request are not required to state a reason for the request other than to identify when the request is for a commercial purpose or when requesting a fee waiver.
Members of the public are not required to use a specific form when submitting a FOIA request.
However, for the public's convenience District 401 has prepared a FOIA request form that may be downloaded and submitted for this purpose: District 401 Public Records Request Form.
When writing your request, please provide as much information as possible about the records you seek. This will help expedite the search process.
What to Expect After Making Your Request
The Freedom of Information officer shall approve all requests for public records unless:
1. The requested material does not exist;
2. The requested material is exempt from inspection and copying by the Freedom of Information Act; or
3. Complying with the request would be unduly burdensome.
Within five business days after receipt of a request for access to a public record, the Freedom of Information officer shall comply with or deny the request, unless the time for response is extended as specified in Section 3 of FOIA.
The Freedom of Information Officer may extend the time for a response for up to five business days from the original due date.
If an extension is needed, the Freedom of Information Officer shall: (1) notify the person making the request of the reason for the extension, and (2) either inform the person of the date on which a response will be made, or agree with the person in writing on a compliance period.
The time periods are extended for responding to requests for records made for a commercial purpose, requests by a recurrent requester or voluminous requests, as those terms are defined in Section 2 of FOIA. The time periods for responding to those requests are governed by Sections 3.1, 3.2 and 3.6 of FOIA.
When responding to a request for a record containing both exempt and non-exempt material, the Freedom of Information officer shall redact exempt material from the record before complying with the request.
Persons making a request for copies of public records must pay any and all applicable fees.
No copying fees shall be charged for: (1) the first 50 pages of black and white, letter or legal sized copies, or (2) electronic copies other than the actual cost of the recording medium, except if the response is to a voluminous request, as defined in FOIA.
The fee schedule shall include copying fees and all other fees to the maximum extent they are permitted by FOIA, including without limitation search and review fees for responding to a request for a commercial purpose, and fees, costs and personnel hours in connection with responding to a voluminous request.
Copying fees, except when fixed by statute, shall be reasonably calculated to reimburse the District's actual cost for reproducing and certifying public records and for the use, by any person, of its equipment to copy records. In no case shall the copying fees exceed the maximum fees permitted by FOIA.
If the District's actual copying costs are equal to or greater than the maximum fees permitted by FOIA, the Freedom of Information officer is authorized to use FOIA's maximum fees as the District's fees.
A fee reduction is available if the request qualifies under Section 6 of FOIA. The Freedom of Information officer shall set the amount of the reduction taking into consideration the amount of material requested and the cost of copying it.
District 401's Policy on Public Records
For More Information
Please consult the following links for additional information about the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, including the full text of the law and a Spanish-language FAQ:
► Text of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act
► Illinois Attorney General: Frequently Asked FOIA Questions by the Public
► Illinois Attorney General: Preguntas frecuentes por el público
► Illinois Attorney General: FOIA Resources Page