What rules have to be followed for retaining board member emails and text messages regarding school district business?
October 17, 2014
All records created by a public agency are public records subject to retention requirements and potential disclosure. This means that any electronic, written or other communication by board members regarding the district are subject to the public records law. This includes emails written on a board member's home computer using an email address that is not a district email address, and text messages sent from or received by a board member's personal cell phone, tablet, etc.
Emails and text messages (even Twitter comments) are not a separate category of public records. Each communication must be reviewed to determine the nature of its content and then it must be stored/retained on that basis. For school board members, most electronic or written communications will be classified as "correspondence."
The rules that govern retention of correspondence records are contained in OAR 166-400-0010. Correspondence by board members (and anyone else in the district) that must be retained includes written or electronic letters, memos and notes that communicate formal approvals, direction for action and information about contracts, purchases, grants, personnel and particular projects or programs. The actual length of time the correspondence must be kept depends on the subject of the correspondence. To check the specific length of time you must look at OAR 166-400-0010 - 0040. You should also review your board policies and any district procedures regarding public record storage and retention.
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