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VIRGINIA FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ADVISORY COUNCIL
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

FOIA Training

The Council views its training duty as its most important mission and welcomes every opportunity to provide FOIA training programs. In fulfilling its statutory mission to conduct educational programs about FOIA, the FOIA Council provides several different types of training, all free of charge, as detailed below.

Live training by staff

Council staff provides training upon request to interested groups, such as the staff of state and local agencies, members of local governing bodies, media organizations, citizen organizations, and any other group that wishes to learn more about FOIA. Organizations requesting training are strongly encouraged, but not required, to consolidate training by including other like organizations within a single or neighboring jurisdiction(s) wherever possible. This training usually is available from April through November. Because the FOIA Council is a legislative agency, training generally is not available while the General Assembly is in session. Please note that training by Council staff does satisfy the FOIA training requirements for FOIA officers and local elected officials (see below). Additionally, please note that the required annual FOIA training may also be provided by legal counsel for the public body (i.e. your local government or agency attorney) as well as the FOIA Council.

Staff from the FOIA Council will travel to the location of the group requesting training or will make arrangements to present the live training using audio/video technology. The training can be presented for credit, in which case it must follow the stated agenda and time limits as agreed with the accrediting organization (see below), or it can be tailored to meet the needs of the particular group. Tailored presentations can range from 30 minutes to several hours, and can present a general overview of FOIA or focus specifically on particular exemptions or portions of FOIA frequently used by that group or organization. Accredited programs include "Access to Public Records" and "Access to Public Meetings," each of which is preapproved by the Virginia State Bar for 1.5 hours of continuing legal education credit for licensed attorneys, and "Criminal and other Law-Enforcement Records and FOIA" which is preapproved for 2.0 hours of in-service credit for law-enforcement from the Department of Criminal Justice Services. Other organizations including the Virginia Municipal Clerks Association and the Virginia School Board Association have also given credit for attending training by the FOIA Council, although such training is not separately pre-approved.

If you are interested in scheduling a live FOIA training presentation, please call the FOIA Council at (804) 698-1810 [Richmond area] or 1-866-448-4100 [toll free]. We suggest that you contact us as soon as you have potential dates in mind for training so as to avoid scheduling conflicts.

Online training

The Council provides two different online training courses, one designed for FOIA officers and the other designed for local elected officials, as alternatives to live training in order to satisfy the statutory training requirements (see below).

FOIA Officers - § 2.2-3704.2

PLEASE NOTE: AS OF 6/13/2022 COVLC HAS TAKEN THIS TRAINING COURSE DOWN FOR REVISION. WE DO NOT KNOW WHEN IT WILL BE REPOSTED.

The course for FOIA officers is hosted on the Commonwealth of Virginia Learning Center (COVLC). If you have not done so already, you will need to register with COVLC to take the course. For more information about registering with COVLC, please click here. If you are already registered, please click here to go directly to the COVLC home page.

After logging in to COVLC, choose "FOIA-Freedom of Information Act" from the list of courses on the right-hand side of the page title "Browse Categories." The course consists of a tutorial that should take less than an hour, followed by a 15 question quiz. You must answer 12 questions correctly (80%) to pass the quiz. After completing the tutorial and passing the quiz, you will have the option to print a certificate showing that you completed the online training. Please note that you do not need to send us copies of your certificate, but you should keep it for your records to document that you completed the required training.

FOIA officers are also required to provide their names and contact information to the FOIA Council so that we can maintain a list of FOIA officers available to the public. Such information must be submitted by July 1 of the year the FOIA officer is initially trained, and then updated if and when it changes. (Note: The requirement used to be to submit the information each year by July 1, but as of July 1, 2020, it has been amended so the information only needs to be submitted once initially and updated if there are changes.)

There are two ways to submit your name and contact information:

1) Click here to use the online version of the form. It requires a free registration, but once done, it will automatically add your information to the FOIA officers list. Please use this form if this is the first time someone is registering as a FOIA officer for the public body.

2) Click here to download a Microsoft Word version of the same form that you may send to us by email (foiacouncil@dls.virginia.gov) or print and send by regular mail, if you prefer. Please use this form if someone else is already registered as FOIA officer for the public body, so that IT staff can remove outdated information from the list while updating with the new information.

Local elected officials - § 2.2-3704.3

As of July 1, 2020, all local elected officials and executive directors and members of each industrial development authority and economic development authority are required to receive FOIA training "within two months after assuming the local elected office and thereafter at least once during each consecutive period of two calendar years commencing with the date on which he last completed a training session." To facilitate this training, we have developed a FOIA training course specifically for local elected officials that should take less than an hour to complete. Note that it covers a broader range of material than the FOIA officers course by including information on public records, public meetings, remedies and penalties, and additional resources for further questions. Additionally, there is no quiz in this version of the online training. There is no requirement for a training certificate, but the law requires that the clerk of a governing body or school board keep records of such training for five years, so please be sure to let your clerk know when you have taken a training course. Note that there is no requirement to send records of this training to the FOIA Council, and unlike FOIA officers, we do not maintain a list of elected officials who have completed FOIA training.

Technical issue: Unfortunately, some users have had buffering issues with the local elected officials course, while the training works for others without any problems. Most users who have encountered issues have been able to complete the training after clearing their browser cache and history, so that is the recommend first step if you have any problems. The training has worked on multiple browsers, but IT staff has indicated that Google Chrome may work better than other browsers, so trying different browsers is another option. If clearing the cache and history does not work, one Chrome user reported that she was able to take the course after she temporarily disabled browser extensions. Because of the technical issues, there are different ways to take the local elected officials online training:

Original version (this version requires the user to click through each page of the training and allows the user to generate a certificate at the end of the course, but unfortunately appears to have the most buffering issues): HERE

MP4 video versions (these versions are an MP4 video with the same course content as the click-through version; users may either play the video directly from our site, or may download it as a .zip file and play it from their own computers; note that these versions do not generate a certificate but they do still satisfy the requirement to take FOIA training): HERE

Additionally, for attorneys who wish to provide training for their clients, please note that a PowerPoint version is available here as a resource to use in conjunction with live training (please note that the PowerPoint version does not satisfy the training requirement by itself, it is only meant to be used in conjunction with live training).

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