Making and Enforcing Your Information Request
Using the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (DPA)
Public School Districts are units of government, political subdivisions of the State of Minnesota (Minn. Stat. 6.465, Subd. 2) and subject to government practices directed in State law. Among these is the Minnesota Government Data Practice Act (DPA). The DPA (Minn. Stat. 13) is the State of Minnesota version of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The DPA helps ensure that units of government in Minnesota, such as school districts, are open and accountable.
Making your request: Excellent guidance for using the DPA, including example requests, is provided on the MN Department of Administration data practices page.
When making your request, ask for data or specific information, rather than asking questions. Be specific and complete. Include sufficient detail so your request can only be interpreted in the way you intend (read over it to check for risks of misinterpretations—accidental or willful). For example, if you want a certain set of records starting on one date and ending on another, provide starting and ending dates. If, instead, you need the whole or all records on a particular matter, say so, but consider the volume of response (as a larger amount of requested material can reasonably take longer to be prepared or come with a greater cost if print copies are desired rather than merely the opportunity to view). Include your contact information and state your expectation of timely acknowledgement.
You may view what you request to see at no cost. Use your phone or camera to record images. Be aware that schools can, and do, impose costs on you for print copies. Ask to be informed of your school district’s pricing and cost estimate (and its basis) before they incur costs for which you will be billed.
State that your request is being made under the DPA, Minnesota Statute 13, to ensure your request is not interpreted as casual communication. This places the School District on notice of its legal responsibility to respond.
Preserve dated records of every interaction, making written reference to verbal communications (content, day, time, and parties) as best as you can. Ask for expected response times. Follow up on any questions that arise and on incomplete or late responses in a timely manner.
Getting your answer: Timely and complete responses are essential to be meaningful. If you do not receive a response to your request, contact Mike McCarthy at FSS for assistance. Willful failure to respond to a DPA request is actionable as provided in the “Administrative Hearing” option of enforcement (Minn. Stat. 13.085). Certain circumstances may involve civil remedies (Minn. Stat. 13.08) and/or penalties (Minn. Stat. 13.09).
This document was prepared by Education Standards of America in cooperation with Fixing Stillwater Schools. It is not legal advice. It is intended to help create effective information requests and to enforce timely, accurate and complete replies.