Sunshine Week 2014 starts March 16

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Sunshine Week 2014 is just around the corner, and SchoolJournalism.org has prepared a list of ways that you can bring Sunshine Week into your classroom. Some of these resources include lesson plans about Sunshine Week and the First Amendment, how to make a FOIA request, and games to encourage civic engagement.

Sunshine Week is a national event that celebrates open government and empowers citizens to involve themselves in government and to seek out information. It involves news media organizations, schools, universities, libraries, nonprofits and other civic associations, individuals and government officials from all across the country.

“Sunshine Week is not just for journalists — it’s for all citizens,” said Arnie Robbins, executive director of the American Society of News Editors. “Transparency is vital in a democracy so citizens can know and understand what the government is doing. Sunshine Week is the one week where we try to bring issues of open government to the forefront even though they’re with us all 52 weeks of the year.”

Started by ASNE, Sunshine Week began in 2005. In 2011, it became a collaboration between ASNE and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Sunshine Week 2014 was made possible by an endowment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and donations from the Gridiron Club and Foundation.

Sunshine Week was initially inspired by the importance of Sunshine Laws, which operate at the state level and guarantee the public access to view state government’s official actions, including but not limited to meetings, records, votes and deliberations. Each state has its own Sunshine Laws, so be sure to check out your state’s laws before making a Sunshine request. The federal government also has its own Sunshine Law called the Freedom of Information Act. It allows the public to make a request to see any record of any federal government agency unless the information falls into an exempt category.

If you or your school would like to officially participate in Sunshine Week or if you’d like more information on what participating involves, email [email protected].