Get Access to Public Records of Elected Officials

CPRA Background

According to CPRA, California Public Records Request Act, “the primary purpose is to give the public an opportunity to monitor the functioning of their government. The greater and more unfettered the public official’s power, the greater the public’s interest in monitoring the governmental action.”
There are two exemptions that can be exempt from disclosure. First, a recognition of the individual’s right to privacy (e.g., privacy in certain personnel, medical or similar records). Second, is maintaining confidentiality of investigative records, official information, records related to pending litigation, and preliminary notes or memoranda).
If a record contains exempt information, the agency generally must segregate or redact the exempt information and disclose the remainder of the record.
If an agency improperly withholds records, a member of the public may enforce, in court, his or her right to inspect or copy the records and receive payment for court costs and attorney’s fees.  Source: | Page 2

1.Sample Letter Public Records Request

Name and Title (of the official with custody of the records)
Name of Agency
RE: Public Records Act Request
Dear ________________,
Pursuant to my rights under the California Public Records Act (Government Code Section 6250 et seq.), I ask to (inspect/obtain a copy of) the following, which I understand to be held by your agency:
(Describe the record as precisely as possible, including the designation of any forms or reports with titles, the date or dates if relevant, the author and addressee if the item is a letter or memo, etc. If the record is referred to in another document or published report and it will help to attach a copy of that reference, do so.)
I ask for a determination on this request within 10 days of your receipt of it, and an even prompter reply if you can make that determination without having to review the record[s] in question.
(Use the following if applicable:)
I would not ordinarily trouble you with this written request, but when I first made it informally I was told by ___________ that your agency considers the information to be exempt from disclosure because _______________________. I respectfully suggest that this position, if I understand it correctly, is inconsistent with the Act as it has been interpreted in the following (authority/authorities…cite case or Attorney General’s opinion).
If you determine that any or all or the information qualifies for an exemption from disclosure, I ask you to note whether, as is normally the case under the Act, the exemption is discretionary, and if so whether it is necessary in this case to exercise your discretion to withhold the information.
If you determine that some but not all of the information is exempt from disclosure and that you intend to withhold it, I ask that you redact it for the time being and make the rest available as requested.
In any event, please provide a signed notification citing the legal authorities on which you rely if you determine that any or all of the information is exempt and will not be disclosed.
If I can provide any clarification that will help expedite your attention to my request, please contact me at (provide phone or fax number, pager number, etc.). I ask that you notify me of any duplication costs exceeding $xx before you duplicate the records so that I may decide which records I want copied.
(Use the following as applicable:)
I am sending a copy of this letter to your legal advisor to help encourage a speedy determination, and I would likewise be happy to discuss my request with [him/her] at any time.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

2.Sample Letter Public Records Request



Superintendent _________________
Custodian of Records
__________________ Unified School District
_____________________(city, state, zip code)
Sent via facsimile __________________ and U.S. Mail

Re:    Public Records Act Request Regarding Implementation of Alternatives to School Removals/Punitive School Discipline and Suspension, Expulsion, and School Based Arrests

Dear Superintendent ______________________,

Pursuant to the California Public Records Act (California Government Code § 6250 et seq.), we are writing to request timely disclosure of the following documents in the possession of the School District relating to implementation of any alternatives to school removals and the issuance of suspensions, involuntary transfers, expulsions, and school-based arrests and citations.

  1. Alternatives to School Removals – Policy, Procedures, and Training
  2. Any and all documents, including policies and procedures, related to using alternatives to school removals to address student behaviors;
  3. Any and all documents regarding the funding sources and budget for the alternative discipline;
  4. Any and all documents regarding the staffing, including staff ratios and qualification of staff, for the alternative discipline;
  5. Any and all documents regarding training of staff and parents and curriculum for training staff and parents regarding the alternative discipline, including type, number of trainings provided, and number of staff and parents trained to date and site locations for such staff.


  1. Suspensions, Involuntary Transfers, and Expulsions
  1. The following data for all schools broken down at the school level and for the District as a whole for the ________,___________,___________(list) school years:
    1. Enrollment data at beginning of school year
    2. Enrollment data at end of school year
  • Enrollment data by track, small learning community, and autonomous small school, if applicable
  1. Attendance data
  1. The following aggregate data regarding disciplinary actions in District schools broken down at the school level and for the District as a whole for the _________________________________________(list) school years:
    1. Number of involuntary transfers to continuation, community day, or other schools, in school and out-of school suspensions, referrals for expulsion, and expulsions issued;
    2. Length of suspensions issued and/or instructional days lost to suspension;
  2. For all of the data discussed in number 2 supra disaggregated by:
    1. California Education Code violation(s) cited as reason/reasons for involuntary transfer, suspension, or expulsion;
    2. Total number of suspensions by the following demographic areas, and suspension rates for each group:
      1. Age
      2. Gender
      3. Race/Ethnicity
      4. Students with Disabilities
      5. English Language Learners
      6. SES/Free and Reduced Lunch
      7. Foster and Homeless Youth


  1. School-Based Security, Arrests and Referrals to Law Enforcement

Any and all documents regarding:

  1. Staffing for security and/or school-based police at District schools, including but not limited to the number of security guards and/or school-based police, location of such officers, and the funding sources and funding allocated to such purposes and the training required for such personnel;
  2. Complaints filed against security and/or school-based police at District schools;
  3. Complaint filing and resolution process for the school-based police or security guards, including but not limited to documents describing how members of the public, school personnel, and students can submit complaints, against security guards or officers, documents describing how the District investigates and resolves such complaints, and how the District addresses complaints of wrongdoing and school police officer misconduct.
  4. The aggregate number of petitions or complaints filed against students with the Probation Department for conduct occurring on or around school-sites disaggregated by type of offense, school location, and age, race, ethnicity, disability, English Language Learner status (ELL), SES/free and reduced lunch, and gender of the arrestee;
  5. The aggregate number of arrests of students for conduct occurring on or around school-sites disaggregated by type of offense, school location, and age, race, ethnicity, disability, ELL, SES/free and reduced lunch, and gender;
  6. The aggregate number of citations for infractions or misdemeanors given out to students disaggregated by type of offense, school location, and age, race, ethnicity, disability, ELL, SES/free and reduced lunch, and gender of the student cited;
  7. The weapons (including, but not limited to, guns, TASERs, pepper spray, and nightsticks) used by security guards or school-based officers during school hours.
  8. Any and all documents related to incidents in which weapons were used by security guards or school-based police officers.
  9. Incidents in which a student was injured by the actions of a security guard or school police officer.

All Records
This request for public records encompasses any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics. See California Government Code § 6252(e). As used in this request and consistent with the California Public Records Act, “writing” means any handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, photocopying, transmitting by electronic mail or facsimile, and every other means of recording upon any tangible thing any form of communication or representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combinations thereof, and any record thereby created, regardless of the manner in which the record has been stored. See California Government Code § 6252(g).

Full Disclosure and Specific Explanation
If any records are claimed to be exempt from disclosure, we request that: (1) you exercise your discretion to disclose some or all of the records notwithstanding the exemption; and (2) with respect to records containing both exempt and non-exempt content, you redact the exempt content and disclose the rest, consistent with California Government Code § 6253(a). Additionally, if any records are withheld or redacted, please provide a written response that describes with specificity each and every record that is being withheld or redacted and the claimed reason for exemption under the California Public Records Act, along with supporting legal authority or authorities.

Assistance With Obtaining Records/Clarifying Our Request
If you contend that this request does not reasonably describe identifiable public records, we request that you promptly assist us by eliciting additional information that will clarify my request and more clearly identify the records we are seeking. See California Government Code § 6253.1.

Waiver of Fees and Costs
We request that you waive any copying fees because we are unable to afford such costs and the information requested will be used in the public interest to further the public’s understanding of public schools and the local police force. No part of the information obtained will be sold or distributed for profit. If you are unable to waive the copying fees, please inform us of any potential duplication costs exceeding $50.00 prior to copying.

Electronic Format Preferred
We also request that you provide any public record identified above that exists in the following electronic formats to us in that electronic format, instead of in paper format: PDF format or all Microsoft Office formats, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. See California Government Code § 6253.9.

Response Within 10 Days
We look forward to working with you to obtain the public records identified in this revised request and look forward to your response to this request within ten (10) days of receipt of this letter. See California Government Code § 6253(c).  Additionally, please provide all records as they become available, rather than waiting to send them together.

Please send all public records responsive to this request to ____________, either by email at ___________________ or mail:  
Attention: __________________(full name)
____________________(city, state, zip code)
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (____)______________________(phone nmber) or by email at ______________________.  Thank you in advance for your timely response.

________________(name, signature)

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