School districts sometimes receive requests for public records citing the federal Freedom of Information Act, or "FOIA."

Are school districts in Ohio, political subdivisions of the State, subject to the Freedom of Information Act? The answer is no.

The federal law does not apply to state agencies or local political subdivisions, which include school districts, township trustees, sheriff's offices, villages, city councils, county commissioners, etc. [U.S. Code Title 5, Sections 551(1) and 552(f)] There are a number of Ohio Supreme Court cases noting that the FOIA does not apply to state agencies or political subdivisions of the state.

Unfortunately, this does not mean that the district does not need to comply with the request. School districts are public entities subject to Ohio public records laws and public records requests under R.C. 149.43. Public records requesters need not recite any "magic words" or citations to make a public records request.

Therefore, even if a request cites the FOIA, the public office should treat the request as a request for public records under Ohio's laws and respond accordingly. But now you know something that requesters citing FOIA don't know. And that should be enough.

One last fun fact about FOIA: If a federal office is located in Ohio, it is correct to cite FOIA in the public records request to that federal office or agency.

Posted by Hollie Reedy on 3/26/2013