Legal Blog

Pennsylvania Public Records Requesting: The Top Five Weirdly Specific Exemptions to Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law

Most of the exemptions to public records disclosure in Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law (RTKL) exist for obvious reasons.  Records that could jeopardize public safety if released are exempt from the RTKL in the name of public safety!  However, there are a few weirdly specific ones:

  1. § 708(b)(25): A record identifying the location of an archaeological site or an endangered or threatened plant or animal species if not already known to the general public.
  2. § 708(b)(21): Library and archive circulation and order records of an identifiable individual or groups of individuals.
  3. § 708(b)(24): Library, archived and museum materials, or valuable or rare book collections or documents contributed by gift, grant, bequest or devise, to the extent of any limitations imposed by the donor as a condition of the contribution.
  4. § 708(b)(15)(i): Academic transcripts.
  5. § 708(b)(15)(ii): Examinations, examination questions, scoring keys or answers to examinations.

You cannot submit a RTKL request to a public university to get a copy of your final exams and the answer key.  But on the bright side – no one else can later request your academic transcript and see how you did!

The library exemptions make me wonder: is there a big library lobbying group in Pennsylvania? If so, bravo to them, because § 708(b)(21) and  § 708(b)(24) are ironclad.

These exemptions are very specific and will not be roadblocks to most RTKL requests, but they’re a reminder to always look at the statute to analyze all possible exemptions!




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