Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Public Information Act?
Enacted in 1970, Maryland's Public Information Act (MPIA), grants the public a broad right of access to public records while protecting legitimate governmental interests and the privacy rights of individual citizens. The MPIA covers public agencies and officials in Maryland to include the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS).
What is a Public Record?
A “public record” is defined under MPIA GP § 4-101 as the original or copy of any documentary material in any form, to include written materials, books, photographs, photocopies, films, microfilms, records, tapes, computerized records, maps, and drawings created or received by the HCPSS in connection with the transaction of public business. Records covered under the MPIA are only those in existence at the time of the request. Requests to write, generate, or create documents, as well as answer direct questions not contained in a document, are not covered under the MPIA.
Who can submit a Public Information Act request?
Can I have access to all HCPSS records?
The MPIA attempts to balance the public’s right to access government records with other policies that respect the privacy and confidentiality of certain information. Records may be withheld or redacted if confidential by law or exempt from disclosure under the MPIA, such as those subject to attorney-client privilege, court orders, medical records, personnel records, confidential commercial and financial information, and student records (protected by both the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 and the MPIA under GP § 4-313). Other records may be determined by HCPSS to be contrary to the public interest after careful consideration of the possible consequences of disclosure, such as pre-decisional and deliberative discussions, ongoing research projects, emergency procedures, and academic testing data. In certain cases, a “person in interest” – typically the subject of the document or information as defined by MPIA GP § 4-101 (g) – may have a greater right of access to otherwise exempt documents.
If a request is denied for access to HCPSS records, you will be notified as to the specific statutory provisions for each exemption.
How do I submit a request?
The most efficient and timely way to submit a formal MPIA request to HCPSS is through our online portal. Under Submit an MPIA Request you will be asked to provide your name, valid email address, a brief description of the requested documents, and confirm your application via electronic signature.
Requests can also be submitted via email or mail, but are similarly required to include name, valid address, a brief description of the requested documents and a signature. Emailed and mailed requests will be entered into the online system for tracking purposes upon receipt.
Email requests to: MPIA_Requests@hcpss.orgMail requests to:
Howard County Public School System
Attention: General Counsel’s Office, MPIA Representative
10910 Clarksville Pike
Ellicott City, Maryland 21042
Supplying an email address with your request will allow for ease of correspondence.
Applications submitted or received after 4:30 p.m. on a business day, or anytime on a weekend, on a school system holiday or day the Central Office is closed will not be considered received until the next business day.
Once a satisfactory written application for records is received via portal, email or mail, the HCPSS MPIA Representative will post a summary of the request in the tracking system, at which time you will receive an email confirmation from email@example.com with a link to your summary request page. If you do not receive a confirmation (please ensure this email address is allowed through your individual email client’s spam filter) within a week of submission please call our office at 410-313-6820. As updates to the status of your request are made via direct contact, the tracking system may also be updated to include responsive documents and final responses.