San Diego SPJ Applauds Proposed SDUSD Email Retention Policy Settlement

The San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to learn of a possible resolution to a matter we’ve been closely involved with for more than a year.

In a closed session meeting Tuesday evening, the San Diego Unified School District Board of Trustees agreed to modify the district’s email retention policy, which previously stated that certain emails would automatically be deleted after one year. Under the new modified policy, the district will keep all emails for at least two years. The change is part of a settlement stemming from lawsuits filed by Voice of San Diego and San Diegans for Open Government.

Since June 2017, San Diego SPJ has urged the district to retain emails for at least two years, a practice in place at other large California school districts. We alsoexpressed concern with the lack of transparency surrounding the implementation of the policy — concerns we feel the school board failed to take seriously.

This past May, the day before the scheduled deletion of millions of emails, Voice of San Diego and San Diegans for Open Government requested temporary restraining orders to halt the policy’s implementation. In August, Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn ordered the district to refrain from deleting any emails, pending a 2019 trial.

This week’s settlement agreement, if approved by Judge Styn, would also bar the district from destroying any email that’s part of litigation or a public-records request, and it would require the district to pay $52,000 in attorney fees, at taxpayers’ expense. The settlement agreement will remain in place for five years. After that, the District can return to its previous one-year retention policy.

This agreement reflects exactly what San Diego SPJ repeatedly urged the school district to do; we just wish it hadn’t required legal action.

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