When The Comedy Is Too Much To Process


Hell freezes over. Pigs fly. Pope declares himself atheist.

Mon Schools compares itself to the National Archives.

From now on, for Freedom of Information Act requests, Monongalia County Schools is charging 35 cents per electronic page for public documents that pre-exist in electronic form.

West Virginia University, for example, charges nothing for electronic records, but comparing itself to WVU, let alone to a public school district, is not good enough for Mon Schools, which compares itself to the United States National Archives. Mon Schools Superintendent Frank Devono:

“This is just getting us in line with what other organizations like the National Archives are doing…”

Now, that’s a powerful comparison. Aim high, no?

“…as we work through all the new technology and new media out there.”

New technology and new media? Like PDF documents and email?

To say that the comparison of Mon Schools to the US National Archives is entirely ridiculous entirely misses the point. The comparison is insane.

But let’s set sanity aside for a moment and consider just what does the National Archives charge for electronic records?:

$15.00 per file.

What does a file consist of?

Well, take a random example, the most recent addition to the National Archives: the newly added Central Foreign Policy Files.

Central Foreign Policy Files
“We have added 227,201 electronic telegram records and 133,612 withdrawal “card” records to the Department of State’s Central Foreign Policy File for 1973-75 available through AAD. These 360,813 records were identified as permanently valuable and merged with the records previously accessible through AAD following completion of the appraisal of the Subject TAGS used in the Central Foreign Policy File.”

Each file (14 new ones) contains on average over 25,000 records, which comes out to fractions of a cent per record, let alone per page of each record. Plus, some of the records were converted from paper to electronic, not pre-existing in electronic form, and merged into old records. Mon Schools’ new policy charges 35 cents per page of existing electronic materials, and does not convert records from paper, nor does it create new records.

In a recent Freedom of Information Act request of Mon Schools, the requester received 14 PDF records totaling nearly 300 pages. Mon Schools did not even trouble itself to email the 14 records. The requester went into the office and copied the records onto a flash drive supplied by the requester. There was no charge. With Mon Schools new policy the charge would be about $100.00 for the 14 PDF records, of less than 300 total electronic pages.

So it is that even if anyone should accept the insane Mon Schools to National Archives comparison, we see that the National Archives charges $15 for more than 25,000 records, while Mon Schools would charge $100 for 14 records. Two real examples. One insane and illegal policy.

Furthermore, the recent FOIA release by Mon Schools included about 250 email exchanges, averaging perhaps a few pages each, which would have cost a FOIA requester under the new policy several hundred dollars additionally. In other words, only the wealthy now have freedom of information access in Monongalia County Schools, a school system with a very large number of low income students.

Mon Schools’ new policy, justified on outlandish grounds, is a severe violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Freedom of Information Act was passed to make information available to the public, not to restrict information to people with money to burn. FOIA was certainly not enacted to allow public agencies to profit off of the public’s information.

The incompetence at Mon Schools is certifiable. No one should be surprised. When a school district decides to build a forthcoming elementary school in health damaging vehicle exhaust at a dangerous intersection, in the face of a pending lawsuit, it is badly out of control and likely to do just about anything to anyone.

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