In recent years the Pennsylvania courts have issued several major decisions setting the standard for public access to records containing the private information of students and teachers. The holdings in these decisions are not confined to public records requests directed at public school districts. But in each case, the rights of students, teachers and school employees are the test for the limits of a right to privacy in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has recently issued an opinion that further clarifies the scope and source of the privacy rights enjoyed by public school students and teachers.

Under the Pennsylvania “Right to Know Law,” 65 P.S. Sections 67.101 et seq. (the RTKL), public agencies—such as public school districts—are required to disclose most records in their possession, unless one or more limited exceptions apply. The RTKL is a powerful tool for anyone seeking information from a public entity, and the courts apply exceptions to disclosure only sparingly.