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VIRGINIA FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ADVISORY COUNCIL
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

FOIA Training

Among other powers and duties, subdivision 2 of § 30-179 of the Code charges the Council to conduct training seminars and educational programs for the members and staff of public bodies and other interested persons on the requirements of FOIA. The Council views its training duty as it's most important mission and welcomes every opportunity to provide FOIA training presentations. 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.

Accredited Courses

There are currently three different types of training programs presented by Council staff that are preapproved for credit for attorneys and/or law-enforcement as described below. Each of these courses must follow the stated agenda and time limits as agreed with the accrediting organization. While these courses offer credit specifically for attorneys and law-enforcement personnel, any interested person is welcome to attend. Additionally, please note that 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 preapproved.

Access to Public Records Course - This course covers FOIA policy, what constitutes a public record, who has Virginia FOIA rights, the procedures for making and responding to requests for public records, charges, and an overview of some of the most commonly used exemptions from mandatory disclosure. This course is preapproved for 1.5 hours of Continuing Legal Education credit from the Virginia State Bar.

Access to Public Records Training Webinar Schedule:
Wednesday, June 12, 2024 at 10 a.m.

Thursday, September 12, 2024 at 10 a.m.

 

Access to Public Meetings Course - This course covers FOIA policy, what constitutes a "public body" and a "meeting," procedural requirements for conducting open meetings, closed meetings, and electronic meetings, and an overview of some of the most commonly used closed meeting exemptions. This course is preapproved for 1.5 hours of Continuing Legal Education credit from the Virginia State Bar.

Access to Public Meetings Training Webinar Schedule:
Wednesday, July 10, 2024 at 10 a.m.
Wednesday, September 25, 2024 at 10 a.m.

 

Law-Enforcement Records Course - This course provides an overview of the procedures for making and responding to public records requests and address records and procedures specific to law-enforcement such as criminal incident information, criminal investigative files, noncriminal incident reports, 911 call records, dash and body-worn camera videos, public safety exemptions, and other provisions of law outside of FOIA that may also affect access to law-enforcement records. This course is preapproved for 2.0 hours of Continuing Legal Education credit from the Virginia State Bar as well as 2.0 hours of in-service credit from the Department of Criminal Justice Services.

Law-Enforcement Records IN-PERSON Training Schedule:
Wednesday, August 14, 2024
Wednesday, October 23, 2024

 

Other Courses

In addition to these courses that are preapproved for credit by other agencies, staff provides live training for local officials and FOIA officers to satisfy the statutory training requirements of §§ 2.2-3704.2 and 2.2-3704.3, as well as training by arrangement that may be tailored to the needs of specific groups or agencies, as described below. Please note that all of the training presentations by Council staff satisfy the FOIA training requirements for FOIA officers, local elected officials and others required to receive FOIA training (see below), including the accredited courses described above. 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 by the FOIA Council staff.

Local Officials Course - This course is designed for local officials (including constitutional officers) and the executive directors and members of industrial development authorities and economic development authorities who are required to receive FOIA training pursuant to § 2.2-3704.2. The course covers FOIA training requirements, FOIA policy, the role of the FOIA Council, procedures related to public records requests, the conduct of public meetings, statutory remedies for FOIA violations, and additional resources for local officials. This course may be presented live in person or online (webinar), and there are also prerecorded versions of it as described further below.

Local Officials Training Webinar Schedule:
Wednesday, August 21, 2024 at 10 a.m.
Wednesday, November 13, 2024 at 10 a.m.
Wednesday, December 4, 2024 at 10 a.m.

 

FOIA Officers Course- There is a course for FOIA officers hosted on the Commonwealth of Virginia Learning Center (COVLC)(https://covlc.virginia.gov/Default.aspx). Please note that due to recent upgrades to the COVLC system, there is no longer a portal for registration by non-state employees. If you are a state employee or already have a COVLC account, you may continue to take the FOIA training hosted on COVLC. If you do not already have an account, you can contact us about creating one for you, but as of January, 2023, we were informed that there are problems with the manual account creation process. For that reason, you may wish to use one of the other FOIA training alternatives instead (note that there is no specific content requirement for FOIA officers, so we would generally recommend taking whichever course or courses best fits your role within your public body).

Training by arrangement - Council staff also 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 encouraged, but not required, to consolidate training by including other interested organizations within a single or neighboring jurisdiction(s) wherever possible. This training is available year-round, and may be presented in person or using virtual meeting or webinar software. Staff can present one of the courses described above or a presentation 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.

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.

 

Pre-recorded online training

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

FOIA Officers - § 2.2-3704.2

The course for FOIA officers is hosted on the Commonwealth of Virginia Learning Center (COVLC) (here). 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 List

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. (In order to prevent tampering, if someone else is already registered as FOIA officer for the public body, the online form will not work to add or remove anyone. If the public body's FOIA officer changes, please notify us by email or use the Word version of the form below.)

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. Please note that 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 also 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.

Due to technical issues experienced by some users, there are different ways to take the local elected officials online training. Please note that only one of which generates a certificate (but again, note that a certificate is not required):

Click-through 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 buffering issues that prevent some users from completing the course: 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 an 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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