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SPLC media law presentation: Freedom of information

Students will learn about the importance of access to information as well as obtaining access to public records and meetings. Students will be taken through the types of Freedom of Information (FOI) categories as well exemptions.


  • Students will learn the basics of Freedom of Information Act.
  • Students will understand the exemptions to the Act.
  • Students will learn how to make FOI requests.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).


45-60 minutes


Slideshow: FOI law

Slideshow with teacher notes

Handout: FOI student worksheet

Answer key: FOI student worksheet

Quiz: FOI quiz

Press Rights Minute #19 – Using the Freedom of Information Act

Lesson step-by-step

1. Questions — 2 minutes

Conduct an student inventory by stating the following declarations and asking students to raise their hands if they think the statement is true:

You can legally find my salary.

You can learn information about bus safety.

You can find out how much the new football uniforms cost.

Tell students that all of the above statements are true unless you go to a private school and if the school or government agency keeps those records.

2. Audio — 1 minute

Play the Scholastic Press Rights Minute.

3. Transition – 30 seconds

Tell the students that today, we’re going to be learning about the general guidelines — as discussed in the audio clip — for a FOIA request as well as they types of public information you can legally obtain.

4. Slideshow — 40 minutes

Go through the SPLC slideshow. Use the teacher notes as talking points for instruction. Some student worksheet questions are exclusively from the teacher notes section.

(Hand out student worksheet students will complete during the slideshow.)

5. Quick quiz — 5 minutes

Students should circle either true or false for each of the five statements provided.