North Carolina Law and Public Records Requests
How to File a Public Records Request
The Caldwell County School System recognizes that you may have an interest in public records. All requests for examining or obtaining copies of public records should be in writing or recorded by school system personnel (School Board Policy 5070/7350). To make a request:
- Submit email requests to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Send fax requests to 828.728.0012. Please include the words "Public Records Request" on the cover sheet and attention to Community Services Department
- Send written requests to: Libby Brown, Community Services Director, 1914 Hickory Blvd.,SW, Lenoir NC 28645
Who can make a public records request?
Anyone is welcome to file a request for public records. Public records may be inspected andexamined at reasonable times and under reasonable supervision by any person. Copies of public record, upon payment of any fees, are furnished to the requester within a reasonable amount of time.
What is Confidential Information?
According to North Carolina Law, some public records are not subject to public disclosure, such as:
- Student records*
- Personnel records (NC Gen. Stat. 115C-319)
- Property of a private "person" (NC Gen. Stat. 66-152-2)
- Attorney/client communications
- Account numbers, individual's signature, date of birth, drivers license number, social security number or other identifying information
- Criminal investigation information
- Emergency response plans
- Hospital, medical, and professional counselor records
- Closed session minutes of board and board committee meetings until the disclosure of the minutes.
- Certain Financial Records
- Public Agency Computer Codes* The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that also protects the privacy of student records. For more information, visit the FERPA website.
What is included in the definition of a public record?
According to NC General Statute Chapter 132 public records are all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business by any agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions. Agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions shall mean and include every public office, public officer or official (State or local, elected or appointed), institution, board, commission, bureau, council, department, authority or other unit of government of the State or of any county, unit, special district or other political subdivision of government.
Fees for Obtaining Public Records
The Caldwell County School System charges a minimal fee for expenses associated with retrieving, copying, and supervising the examination of public records. The fee is below the actual cost of reproducing the public record of public information, to include the required supervision to maintain the integrity of the records.
- 10 cents per page for copies if more than 15 pages must be copied to complete the request.
- Different fees for different media may be assessed as prescribed by law.
How long does it take to Process a Request?
Simple requests can be completed within 48 hours. However, North Carolina law allows for reasonable time to respond to public records requests. This includes time to determine whether a public record is also a confidential record that need not or cannot be released. The law states that public records are made available during customary office hours and a public agency is only required to provide copies of public records that exist.
What Happens Once a Request is Made?
After you make a public records request, Community Services Director Libby Brown will acknowledge that request, usually through an e-mail.
Next, your public record is entered on the Public Records Request Log, including the date requested and a description of the request.
The request is also forwarded to the offices and individuals that may have documents that are responsive to the request. For simple requests, those offices are advised to retrieve the documents and return them to the Community Services Office, who may contact the Caldwell County Board of Education attorney to determine if any documents or portions of those documents should be redacted or withheld because they are confidential under law.
If there are no confidentiality issues or if confidential information can be redacted, the next step is to provide them to the requester.
If the entire document or documents requested are determined to be confidential, the requester will be notified that the document cannot be released, citing the appropriate section of North Carolina law.
Paying processing fees
All checks for public records requests should be made to the Caldwell County Schools.
Access of Records
Any denial of a public records request will be made in writing and will include the basis for the denial. Procedures for appealing this decision may be addressed to the Superintendent.
Public Records Request Log
A Public Records Request Log will be maintained in the Community Services Office. The log will include the initial request date, the requester and a description of the request. Please be aware that requests for public records are themselves a public record. This means that the requester's name, request, and the documents provided are all subject to public disclosure.