Community members’ emails may be subject to records requests

The Fayetteville-Manlius School District has recently received nearly a dozen Freedom of Information requests that require the district to share documents including email communications that individuals submitted to district administrators and F-M Board of Education members on topics such as face masks, vaccinations and diversity, equity and inclusion. 

New York state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) provides the public the right to access records maintained by government agencies, with certain exceptions. Email communication between members of the public and school staff and board members is included in the state’s definition of a record. 

“Some community members may have thought that they were communicating privately with members of the administration or the board of education, but those communications are subject to FOIL, and we are required by law to share the requested information,” Superintendent Craig J. Tice. “In turning over the requested documents, we have taken steps to redact personal information related to students; however, such information as an individual’s name may not be subject to redaction.”

After documents and information are provided to the individual who files a freedom of information request, the district has no control over how the information is used or shared by that individual or group of individuals.

Community members and staff who feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts with the district anonymously may use the district’s Let’s Talk communication platform, which is accessible via the district website homepage. 

“Community input is critical to the district’s operation,” Tice said. “The district should be a reflection of the community’s values and expectations and hearing from community members, as well as district staff, is necessary to ensure that the district meets the expectations of our stakeholders.”