We warn our kids about not texting, emailing, tweeting or putting up Facebook posts that may haunt them for life. But what about the content adults are writing in their emails? Most of us would think twice about posting on Facebook, utterly condemning our boss or our neighbor (especially if they are on your Facebook friends list).
We have seen stories of that kind of behavior getting folks in hot water. But what about that scathing email you sent your child’s teacher? Think that the email exchange is private? Think again.
Public school emails are public records.
Public schools operate under the Washington State Public Records Act.
This means correspondence (including emails) with officials of public or government agencies is considered public record and could be available upon request.
Of course, there is a list of specific exceptions. Businesses cannot request records for the purpose of selling stuff. A child’s educational records and medical information (HIPPA protects that information) and names of students are also protected under the Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
However, that fiery email you sent the principal complaining about school lunches could become public record if someone requested it. The curt response you sent to the teacher in response to a school assignment? Those emails could also be accessed by the public if requested.
We all need to practice professionalism when we exchange emails with others—not just because it might become public record, but because it is the civil thing to do.
So if you really don’t care if someone sees the email you sent to the school librarian where you totally flew off the handle about your distain for the Junie B Jones series, then go for it. Otherwise it is probably best to do a spell check and then check yourself!