Las Vegas Sun

November 22, 2017

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Court to tackle case of public access to teacher email addresses

A judge will decide in the coming week whether a public records lawsuit against the Clark County School District will go to trial or be dismissed.

In late March, the Nevada Policy Research Institute filed suit against the School District, alleging it violated the state's public records laws by refusing to release email addresses for some 17,000 Clark County schoolteachers.

The conservative think tank, which has already amassed 9,000 teacher email addresses, is currently conducting an email campaign to encourage teachers to drop the local teachers union.

However, NPRI spokesman Victor Joecks maintained Tuesday that the lawsuit is about ensuring government transparency. NPRI maintains a public listing of public employee salaries on

"These government-issued emails are public records," Joecks said. "CCSD's motion to dismiss flies in the face of Nevada's public records laws."

The School District, which repeatedly refused to grant NPRI's public records requests, recently filed a motion to dismiss the think tank's lawsuit. District attorneys argued that teacher email addresses aren't a matter of public record but are part of an employee's private, personnel records.

"CCSD is committed to transparency and continuous communications with our community," district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said in a statement. "Providing a list of all 17,000 teachers' email addresses does not provide the public with additional transparency — it would only serve to interfere with important information that needs to flow between our educators and the parents of our students."

Fulkerson said the district is concerned that releasing teacher email addresses would inundate teachers with "spam," clogging the district's email servers and costing the district more to maintain its technology infrastructure.

In the past, the district has refused email requests from textbook publishers and political organizations to keep political and commercial messages from reaching the email inboxes of teachers.

"In an effort to protect our employees from spam, CCSD does not give out lists of employee email addresses," district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said in a statement. "We continue to stand on the side of educators who should be protected from endless spam email. Teachers want to educate students and use their email accounts for that important work."

However, NPRI retorted that "government-generated and government-issued" email addresses are public records and therefore must be disclosed. The state laws allow for government officials to keep personal email addresses of its employees confidential, but not work email addresses, according to NPRI attorneys.

In addition, NPRI dismissed the School District's concerns about spam inundating teachers and clogging up their computer servers. The School District ought to have better spam filters, Joecks said, adding that NPRI's email blasts have not clogged the district's servers.

Furthermore, NPRI argued that the School District was being hypocritical when it allows email blasts about legislative bills and union messages to go through to its teachers. NPRI also pointed to several schools that post teacher email addresses on their websites, questioning why these school websites aren't considered a violation of district policy.

"Teacher emails to a large extent are already public," said Joseph Becker, the director of NPRI's Center for Justice. "They are contradicting themselves all over the place."

Clark County District Judge Douglas Smith is expected to make his ruling on the case this week or next week.

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