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.


San Diego SPJ Concerned by Panel Sponsorship at EIJ Conference

On Tuesday, the San Diego SPJ board shared its concerns about the national SPJ board’s decision to allow the Charles Koch Institute to sponsor a public records panel at this year’s Excellence in Journalism conference.

Here is the text of the letter the San Diego SPJ board sent to to SPJ’s executive director and board of directors:

Dear Ms. McKenzie and the SPJ Board of Directors,

The San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is concerned by the decision to allow the Charles Koch Institute to sponsor a FOIA panel at the 2018 Excellence in Journalism conference next week. We’re encouraged, however, by the decision to create a task force to review policies regarding future panel sponsorships.

SPJ members across the country didn’t learn about the sponsorship until a little more than a month before the conference. On Sept. 4, our board was briefed about it and learned that IRE board president Cheryl Thompson had chosen to withdraw as panel moderator.

At this late date, we understand why SPJ national has decided to move forward with the panel and the Koch sponsorship. We hope the task force will review the following points:

  • Rules surrounding sponsorships from organizations with clear political ties
  • How and when sponsorships should be disclosed to members

The San Diego SPJ board looks forward to helping guide our organization toward operating with greater transparency, especially regarding decisions that could raise questions about journalistic integrity and professional interests.


San Diego SPJ Pro Chapter Board


San Diego SPJ Cheers Judge’s Ruling Stopping SDUSD Email Deletion

Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn on Friday stopped the San Diego Unified School District from deleting millions of old emails, pending the outcome of a trial.

The policy, passed by the San Diego Unified School District Board of Trustees last year, would have resulted in the deletion of millions of emails on June 1, 2018. On May 31, after Voice of San Diego and San Diegans for Open Government filed lawsuits seeking to halt the policy’s implementation, Styn granted a preliminary injunction. Styn gave all parties a chance to argue their case in court and file additional documents. Today, he ruled the injunction will remain in place pending the outcome of a trial scheduled for March 2019.

For more than a year, the San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has raised concerns that important public records will be deleted if the policy is enacted. We regularly reached out to the district to get updates on the policy’s implementation, and we researched how other large California school districts handle email retention (all of them keep emails for at least two years). We also questioned whether it was proper for the district to allow individual employees to decide which of their own emails should be retained and which emails should be deleted.

Despite our monthly requests to the school district, we were never provided with clear evidence that employees had been adequately trained on which emails fit the definition of a “record” and should therefore be retained. Judge Styn noted this in his ruling, saying he “was not persuaded” that the district had provided employees with proper guidance.

“The court finds SDUSD fails to establish that its guidelines, policies and procedures will insure that ‘records’ will not be destroyed during the automatic deletion procedure,” Styn wrote.

SD-SPJ is pleased with Judge Styn’s ruling on this important matter of transparency and appreciates his questioning of whether the district had taken all necessary steps to ensure its policy didn’t result in the destruction of public records.

Full List of 2018 San Diego SPJ Award Winners

Congratulations to all the talented journalists who were honored at our annual awards banquet last night and thanks to all who celebrated another great year of San Diego journalism with us!
Click here for a full list of 2018 San Diego SPJ award winners.
Received an award but still need to get your plaque or certificate or have an issue with your certificate? Please email
Certificates for the second-place and honorable-mention winners erroneously were printed with the names of those who submitted the entries, rather than those who created the award-winning work. We apologize for this error. All certificates are being reprinted this week and will be mailed to the person who submitted the entries.