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Keep out of teacher’s private emails, declares court

| September 21, 2010

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin, USA, has ruled that personal emails written by teachers on school computers are private and cannot be disclosed to records requesters.

The ruling was the result of a local citizen’s request to make public all emails sent and received by five teachers via school computers in the Wisconsin Rapids School District. Don Bubolz said he wanted to know whether the teachers were using emails, and school time and resources, appropriately.

The educators in question had no objection to the public scrutiny of work-related email correspondence, but sought an injunction to prevent the state from examining personal messages. Three justices reminded Bubolz that Wisconsin’s public records legislation became law in the early 1980s, before email became an accepted and widespread form of correspondence. One of the justices added that the disclosure of the contents of teachers’ private electronic messages would not add to the electorate’s knowledge of government activities.

Two dissenting justices claimed that the public had a right to know what public service employees, like teachers, do with their time in the workplace with equipment purchased with public funds.

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Category: e-Education, Spring 2010 Edition

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