Responding to a public-records request by the Raleigh News and Observer for school board members' eMail messages regarding proposed changes in student assignments recently cost Wake County, N.C., schools a whopping $17,000, primarily in staff time. Think it can't happen to you? Think again. Journalists routinely mine school and district data looking for virtual smoking guns.

Superintendent contracts, administrator salaries, teacher turnover rates, on-campus crime, student discipline incidents, credit card use, and school board travel are common Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Recent FOIA-driven stories across the country include a school district secretary in Dallas who rang up $383,788 in credit


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