Short recap: GRISD administration and attorneys decided to change their procedure of doing public records requests concerning email and presented E-Discovery about it shortly before this school year started. The E-Discovery procedure shifted the responsiblity for fulfilling public records request from the Technology Department, where targeted searches could be run quickly and efficiently, to the teachers themselves. And this without any controls to make sure every teachers was trained on how to best do searches on his/her email, any procedure to make sure every teacher complied, etc. And that's not to mention the, in my opinion, absurdity of having the busy teachers, who one would presume would want to concentrate on teaching and not doing the IT department's job, getting this foisted on them.
The school board did not discuss this in a public board meeting with notice so that the public could weigh in. The school board did not vote on or make a decision that they would change this policy and in fact, so far as I can tell, there is NO vote on policy regarding this. I asked about this and a couple of other things in a public records request made in late August. It now seems very clear to me that the procedure was changed by attorneys, in a secretive manner, and not involving the public and the school board, which should properly have been the ones to alter a procedure that involves the taxpaying public.
Now, there is a policy from the boardbook at GBAA Legal that says that
the Superintendent shall be the District's officer for public information. Each department head shall be an agent of the officer for public information for the purposes of compling with the public information laws and the District's policy on public records.... The District may promulgate reasonable rules of procedure by which public information may be inspected and copied efficiently, safely and without delay. These rules may not be inconsistent with any provision of Government Code Chapter 552.
Note that it says the District. Not the Superintendent who is a hired employee of the elected school board officials.
The attorneys who act for the school district have asked the Attorney General to allow them not to supply me with any documents or emails that discuss this change in public records email retrieval.
Here is their latest reply to the AG asking not to release the emails/docs concerning this change in procedure. PDF.
Where, in any of this, was this discussed on a school board meeting? Surely the school board is aware of what the administration people are doing.... right? But they didn't attempt to bring this before the public before making a decision to do an E-discovery presentation that STILL is not a policy? Why is this NOT a policy? And why isn't the information about why they made this change publicly available?
I also disagree with the notion that emails can be suppressed rather than redacted where private cell phone numbers are included. I personally don't care to know what the private cell phone number of the sheriff is. But, supposing that it is minimal emails we are talking about, it's an extremely easy matter to electronically redact information in a PDF file (which is how the information is almost always sent to me) and hide the phone numbers rather than attempting to not send the emai at all!
UPDATE: Here is the letter I sent to the AG about this, dated Sept 22 2009
September 22 2009
Office of the Attorney General
Open Records Division
Austin, Texas 78711-2548
I received a copy of a letter the attorneys, Walsh, Anderson, Brown, Aldridge and Gallegos, for Glen Rose Independent School District sent you on September 15, 2009, reference 361318. In it, they are pressing their case for why they do not have to supply me with the email public records I am requesting. I cannot speak to whether they have a valid claim with respect to the attorney-client privilege they assert for a school policy that was not approved by the board but apparently only spoken of between administration and attorneys. What occurred, basically, is that GRISD, without any vote by the school board, or any discussion in an open session, decided to change their public records policy to require teachers to do searches of their email and report the results back to the administration. It is not that GRISD’s IT department doesn’t have the ability to do server based searches quickly and efficiently, and in fact, had done so before. GRISD also did not put any controls on the teacher-done email searches to be certain that they are to be done in a timely manner, done by everyone, and done with searches training. They also are not consistent with how they do the searches after introducing the policy, as even within this public records request you have before you, #2 was fulfilled by the teachers , but #1 and #3 were done, apparently, by the server computers.
Seems to me that a. since there has been no defined policy by the elected school board b. rather than involve the public in their decision, at least by having this discussed publicly before implementing, and c. the process has been altered of searching for email records to be much more time consuming, costly, and shift the burden onto the teachers rather than use the server-based email archive package, that the public should be privy, since there was no open meeting regarding these changes, to why these decisions were made. It seems like the school district is hiding behind attorney-client privilege. As a side note, I also have a cost complaint through Hadassah Schloss as I dispute the amount of time GRISD wishes to dock me-if they choose to use a very inefficient way of fulfilling public records request rather than using the technology that has proven successful for them in the past, why should I be penalized for that decision? Originally they were going to charge me what I believed to be an unreasonable amount, until I notified them that I was going to contest it.
I would also like to express my opinion about the email that contains the private cell phone numbers of the County Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff. The attorneys do not want to release the emails at all, but I don’t understand why they simply can’t redact the phone numbers! I am not interested in the phone numbers but rather the subjects of the email I have requested. Can they really insist that I not get a copy of the email at all rather than redacting private information?
Please consider this in your decision.