Government Information Request Resources

How to Use State Level Public Records Requests to Identify Critical Race Theory in Your Schools

Each state has its own laws regarding the release of public records to private citizens. It is important that you check with the laws in your state before beginning your request for public records. This resource is intended to assist you in that endeavor. 

Many states have online forms you can fill out that will make your search for public records easier, but some do not. For those states that do not assist you, this website can help you begin to craft your letters of request. You want to make sure the language you use is very intentional. Be very specific in what you are asking for. Instead of asking for “public school curriculum,” ask for something like “all documents that mention anti-racism training”, if, for instance, you are beginning your search for information in your schools about Critical Race Theory. 

It is important to understand that, though they won’t say it, the government usually does not want to release this information, sometimes simply because of the work it entails, so they will look for every reason not to fulfill your request. Again, ask for exactly what you are looking for. 

Keep these two questions in mind while writing your request: “What am I looking for?” and “How can I limit the agency in avoiding giving me the information I want?” 

When searching to see if Critical Race Theory is being implemented in your schools, you should be mindful of terms that are being used or misappropriated to advance a framework of CRT in curriculum or training. If you only ask for public records relating to Critical Race Theory, you may be missing out on more information than you realize. This is a list of buzzwords that often help reveal if a CRT framework is being used in your schools:

Action Civics, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), Culturally responsive teaching, Abolitionist teaching, Anti-racism, Anti-bias training, Anti-blackness, Anti-meritocracy, Obtuse meritocracy, Centering or de-centering, Collective guilt, Colorism, Conscious and unconscious bias, Critical ethnic studies, Critical pedagogy, Critical self-awareness, Critical self-reflection, Cultural appropriation/misappropriation, Cultural awareness, Cultural competence, Cultural proficiency, Cultural relevance, Cultural responsiveness, Culturally responsive practices, De-centering whiteness, Deconstruct knowledges, Diversity focused, Diversity training, Dominant discourses, Educational justice, Equitable, Equity, Examine “systems”, Free radical therapy, Free radical self/collective care, Hegemony, Identity deconstruction, Implicit/Explicit bias, Inclusivity education, Institutional bias, Institutional oppression, Internalized racial superiority, Internalized racism, Internalized white supremacy, Interrupting racism, Intersection, Intersectionality, Intersectional identities, Intersectional studies, Land acknowledgment, Marginalized identities, Marginalized/Minoritized/Under-represented communities, Microaggressions, Multiculturalism, Neo-segregation, Normativity, Oppressor vs. oppressed, Patriarchy, Protect vulnerable identities, Race essentialism, Racial healing, Racialized identity, Racial justice, Racial prejudice, Racial sensitivity training, Racial supremacy, Reflective exercises, Representation and inclusion, Restorative justice, Restorative practices, Social justice, Spirit murdering, Structural bias, Structural inequity, Structural racism, Systemic bias, Systemic oppression, Systemic racism, Systems of power and oppression, Unconscious bias, White fragility, White privilege, White social capital, White supremacy, Whiteness, and Woke.

You may also find it useful to search for names in these requests. The below list includes notable Critical Race Theorists or authors that are heavily influenced by CRT concepts that may be mentioned in the public school curriculum. If you see these names, it is more likely than not that CRT is being implemented in your community:

Richard Delgado, Angela Harris, Mari J. Matsuda, Marvin Lynn, Adrienne D. Dixson, Kimberle Crenshaw, Mari J. Matsuda, Charles R. Lawrence III, Ibram X. Kendi, Kimberle Crenshaw, Robin Diangelo, Ijeoma Olou, Barbara Applebaum, and Reni Eddo-Lodge, for starters.

State Specific Information Request Resources

Federal FOIA Information

You may also be interested in seeing what the Department of Education is saying about Critical Race Theory or what federal grant money is paying schools for. You can request this information as well. 

The Freedom of Information Act (FIOA) allows for private individuals or organizations to request to obtain federal documents and communications. This website provides some good information on how to get started and what you can request. 

There is currently no one form to file a FOIA request. The aforementioned website provides an online form, but you may also send a formal letter to the agency you are requesting from. 

The language you use in these requests is critical. It is important to know that these agencies, although they won’t say it, do not want to give you this information. You need to make sure that every word you use is intentional. Be very specific in what you ask for.

Judicial Watch publishes all of the FOIA requests that they send. It may be beneficial to take a look at the FOIAs they send to get an idea of how to write these. 

One of the last things you need to be mindful of is the associated fees that are charged in a FOIA request. There are some exceptions, such as a 501(c)(3) tax exemption status. Regardless, it is important to alert the agency of your status as they can better assess fees. 

This website has sample FOIA request letters as well as FOIA appeals letters and fee exemption letters.

Using the above examples in writing your request for information is a good starting point, but your language should be specific to what you are requesting, and if you are requesting information from a state agency, you should be substituting the federal laws with the applicable state laws. Essentially, you cannot cite the Freedom of Information Act when requesting information from, say, the Colorado Department of Health.  

Do not be surprised if the information you request comes back with redacted lines. According to federal law, the federal government does not have to release any information that relates to informant identities, ongoing criminal investigations, and classified materials.

Model Language for Public Records Requests

Head of Agency Name

Dear Agency Head:

Pursuant with [state law/ code title], I am requesting the following public records:

[Insert exactly what you want: documents containing information on X, records relating to X, public school curriculum relating to X, etc.]

According to state law/ code X, I am aware that fees may accompany a public records request. Once you have assessed how much these fees will cost and before moving forward with this request, please call me at [phone number] or email me at [email]. (Only use this section of your state has associated fees). 

Further, according to state law/ code X, this request must be fulfilled no later than [the number of days your state law allows public records requests to take] days from receiving this letter. (Only use this section if your state law has a designated time frame for public records requests fulfillment). 

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Phone Number


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