The Open-Records Project is a year-long collaboration between The Anniston Star and the Department of Journalism at The University of Alabama.
The main focus of the project is to teach students and Alabamians what the public records law in the state of Alabama is and how to exercise the right to inspect public records in Alabama by filing open-records requests with various government bodies, companies and schools in Alabama.
Section 36-12-40 of Alabama state law explains the rights of citizens to inspect and copy public writings and the exceptions:
Every citizen has a right to inspect and take a copy of any public writing of this state, except as otherwise expressly provided by statute. Provided however, registration and circulation records and information concerning the use of the public, public school or college and university libraries of this state shall be exempted from this section.
Provided further, any parent of a minor child shall have the right to inspect the registration and circulation records of any school or public library that pertain to his or her child. Notwithstanding the foregoing, records concerning security plans, procedures, assessments, measures, or systems, and any other records relating to, or having an impact upon, the security or safety of persons, structures, facilities, or other infrastructures, including without limitation information concerning critical infrastructure and critical energy infrastructure information, the public disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to be detrimental to the public safety or welfare, and records the disclosure of which would otherwise be detrimental to the best interests of the public shall be exempted from this section.
Any public officer who receives a request for records that may appear to relate to critical infrastructure or critical energy infrastructure information, shall notify the owner of such infrastructure in writing of the request and provide the owner an opportunity to comment on the request and on the threats to public safety or welfare that could reasonably be expected from public disclosure on the records.
The goal of this project is to inform Alabamians, both those requesting information and being asked for information, on what the Alabama state law says about giving and receiving requested information.
The students in the Fall 2013 Digital Media Workshop have sent public records requests to varies organizations on campus:
- Brother’s Street Eats request
- UA tuition breakdown request
- UA parking ticket revenue request
- Tuscaloosa Police drug raid records request
- UA grounds budget request
- Crimson Tide football team budget request
- Bama Dining information request
all only two documented examples of attempts we’ve received at obtaining open-records have been denied received responses.