A nine-month battle over email addresses for Clark County School District’s nearly 18,000 teachers has progressed to a lawsuit.
The conservative think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute announced Thursday that it is suing the district and related organizations for not releasing the work email addresses provided to teachers by their employer, the nation’s fifth-largest school district.
The lawsuit filed in Clark County District Court also names the Nevada Public Education Foundation and Clark County-based Public Education Foundation because the district replied to the original request in June by stating that the foundations own the license to the records and must release them, institute spokesman Victor Joecks said.
The outcome of the lawsuit, which tackles whether public employee work email addresses are public information under Nevada’s public records law, could have repercussions for government workers statewide.
The institute’s lawsuit is based on the claim that the district and foundations are breaking the public records law, which is meant to “foster democratic principles by providing members of the public with access to inspect and copy public books.”
The law also says that people’s home addresses, phone numbers and other private information are not to be released, but the institute is requesting no personal information, Joecks said.
“I should re-emphasize that we’re requesting a list of government-issued, government employee email addresses, not email content,” Joecks said. “It’s hard to imagine a more public record.”
The name, title and salary of every government employee in Nevada — including teachers — is annually released to the institute and posted online. Joecks argued this is no different.
However, district officials interpret the law differently.
“Giving a list of these email addresses to any organization that does not conduct official business with our teachers would be a misuse of these email accounts and would allow countless businesses and organizations to continuously solicit district teachers through their work email,” said district spokeswoman Melinda Malone.
When the institute requested the email addresses in June, it wanted to remind all teachers of the short window of time for dropping membership in the Clark County Education Association.
The union, which represents district teachers and is part of the Nevada State Education Association, only allows members to drop out from July 1-15, when “most teachers are on vacation and school-related activities are the furthest things from their minds,” Joecks wrote in last year’s email to teachers. Union members pay $768 in annual dues.
Despite the district’s refusal to provide the email addresses, the institute obtained some and emailed thousands of teachers. While some teachers were appreciative, others asked Joecks to remove them from the mailing list.
“Others have cussed at us,” he said.
The intended use of the email addresses is irrelevant, Joecks argued. Email addresses of government workers are public information, as is the content of those email accounts, he said, referencing a Nevada Supreme Court case.
In that 2011 case, the court sided with Reno Newspapers Inc. that the content of government officials’ mailboxes are subject to the Open Records Act.
“So it’s ridiculous for CCSD bureaucrats to pretend that government-issued email addresses themselves are confidential,” Joecks said.
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.