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The 2020 Foilies Awards: Recognizing the year’s worst in government transparency 

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click to enlarge CAITLYN CRITES
  • Caitlyn Crites

The Smokescreen Award

Texas Elementary Schools

Across the country, parents, educators, and lawmakers are fuming about nicotine "vaping" among underage students. Considering that this is branded as a public health crisis, one would assume schools would be forthcoming with data about vaping incidents on campuses to help inform policymakers.

That's not what Sarah Rafique, a reporter with ABC 13 Investigates in Houston, found when she filed records requests with more than 1,000 schools across Texas. About 10% of agencies missed the 10-day deadline to respond. One school demanded an (illegal) flat fee of $150 for all requests, while another agency demanded to know the reason for the request before they'd hand over the documents. "It was weird, too, that some districts said they didn't have any data/information but when I explained I was reaching out to 1,000 districts (and they wouldn't be singled out, per se) all of a sudden they had numbers to share," Rafique said in a Twitter thread outlining the most troubling responses to her requests.

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