On June 1, the San Diego Unified School District will delete thousands of emails from its server as part of a new policy enacted, the district says, to save money on data storage costs (the district hasn’t provided backup on financial reasons for the change). The only emails that won’t be deleted are those employees manually archive. Going forward, the district plans to delete all emails after one year.
The San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is concerned that important public records will be deleted in the email purge.
The new policy was introduced a year ago and approved by the district’s board of trustees, though it didn’t take effect immediately. At the time, we expressed concern about the policy’s lack of specifics, including whether employees would be properly trained on which emails to archive. We noted that other large California school districts retain emails for at least two years.
Since last July, we’ve regularly asked when the policy would take effect and what guidance and training staff was being given. We learned earlier this month that the policy would take effect June 1.
We continue to have concerns about the new policy. Despite repeated requests to the district over the last two weeks, we have yet to see any evidence that staff was adequately trained on which emails should be archived.
Californians Aware, a statewide group that advocates for government transparency, is also troubled by the change. Former San Diego City Councilwoman and longtime CalAware board member Donna Frye said the group believes the change may violate state law.
“The state law governing retention of school district disposable records, in effect, requires at least a three-year preservation period,” Frye said.
Additionally, attorney Cory Briggs says that he intends to sue the district for adopting the new policy.
San Diego SPJ urges the San Diego Unified School District to reconsider the serious concerns we and others have raised about the new policy — and to provide more detail on how it will be implemented — before deleting tens of thousands of public records from its server.