Bureaucratic back and forth can make filing for public records a languorous process. Prolonged delays for responsive documents or outright rejections are the M.O. of many agencies, but sometimes requestors can run into the “ransom” approach to prohibiting free information. A school District in Mississippi is requesting a $50 advance before it will begin process a FOIA request regarding LGBTQ protections within its institutions.
According to the Mississippi Public Records Act, “all public records maintained by the District, shall be made available for access and duplication”. While this is stated in the acknowledgement letter, the initial fee required before “searching and reviewing the documents” suggests just the opposite.
In addition to the cost of combing through and reviewing these documents, the district felt it was appropriate to inform us shipping would cost extra as well …
The letter also suggests that the broad nature of the request could result in a copy charge “more expansive than you were expecting”. This is all before any research had been conducted or documents produced. Freedom of information should be free, or at least reasonably priced.
Read the full letter embedded below or on the request page: