Judge: Database of teachers’ emails not public
August 21, 2013
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A conservative think tank said it will take its fight for the release of a database containing Clark County teachers’ work emails to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Clark County District Judge Douglas Smith on Monday dismissed Nevada Policy Research Institute’s lawsuit against the Clark County School District. The judge ruled the “requested email database is confidential” and “not a public book or a public record,” the Las Vegas Sun reported.
“The court concludes that CCSD’s interests in nondisclosure clearly outweigh the interest in access in this narrow case,” Smith said in his decision.
NPRI sued the school district after it denied several public records requests for the email databases. NPRI has waged an email campaign against the Clark County Education Association, sending email blasts to thousands of teachers encouraging them to drop their union memberships.
Although teacher email addresses are widely published on individual school websites, the school district has refused to release its database of teacher email addresses, stating that it doesn’t want its more than 17,000 teachers to be “inundated with spam.”
“The district is committed to transparency,” district spokeswoman Kirsten Searer said. “However, district emails are the main form of communication our teachers use with parents and students, and we want to protect teacher email accounts from spam.”
Smith agreed, saying NPRI and other groups may abuse the district’s email database by “disseminating commercial and/or propaganda emails or selling the database to Internet spammers and phishers.”
“CCSD has an obvious interest in opening the lines of communication between students, parent and teachers — an interest which could clearly be undermined if any person or corporate entity could request, then sell and/or utilize, the teacher email database for any purpose, whether unlawful, propaganda or commercial,” Smith said. “CCSD has no way to ensure that NPRI will avoid such abuse if the email database is disclosed.”
The judge also said the email database was part of the school district’s communication system. He reasoned that as such, NPRI’s request was “one for a communication device or method, not a record.”
NPRI said the ruling sets a dangerous precedent for people seeking information under Nevada’s Public Records Act.
“If allowed to stand, this harmful precedent will allow government agencies or judges to deny public record requests based on their interpretation of the function the information will have once received,” Joseph Becker, director of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation, said in a statement.