The San Diego Unified School District recently announced it will start deleting emails older than six months effective July 1, a change the district describes as a cost-saving measure. The San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is concerned this policy will significantly hamper access to important public information at a time when the public and the media already have problems obtaining information and records from the district.
San Diego SPJ has researched email retention policies in other large California school districts and learned that the policy San Diego Unified is proposing is outside the norm. The Los Angeles, Long Beach, Fresno and Elk Grove unified school districts all retain emails for at least two years, per their policies.
At a productive meeting last week to discuss transparency concerns with San Diego SPJ, two of the district’s public information officers told the SPJ board the new email retention policy was an administrative decision that didn’t require school board approval. But the district has since said the board may vote on the policy after it goes into effect, and school board member Richard Barrera has said he wants a June 27 vote on the new policy. San Diego SPJ believes San Diego Unified should follow other large districts’ examples and consider retaining emails for at least two years. San Diego SPJ urges the school district to adopt a better email policy and, even if it doesn’t, to honor all existing public records requests that seek emails more than six months old.