The Nevada Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Clark County School District could not refuse to release teacher work email addresses to the public.
In a unanimous decision by a three-justice panel, the state’s highest court overturned Clark County District Judge Doug Smith’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit that the conservative-leaning Nevada Policy Research Institute filed more than two years ago after district officials denied its request for the nearly 18,000 email addresses.
The justices ruled the government-issued email addresses meet the “plain definition” of public records, which Nevada Administrative Code defines as “a record of a local government entity that is created, received or kept in the performance of a duty and paid for with public money.”
The ruling noted that CCSD conceded it created the directory at the expense of taxpayers.
“Because we agree with each of CCSD’s concessions, which render the requested directory a ‘public record,’ the directory should be open for inspection and copying by the public,” the justices wrote.
They rejected Smith’s rationale to dismiss the NPRI lawsuit on the grounds that the email addresses are confidential and that their release would cause a surge in spam messages to distract teachers from student learning.
An attorney for the district was not immediately available for an interview late Friday.
The ruling overturned Smith’s decision to dismiss NPRI’s lawsuit and remanded the case back to his court for trial. But Joseph Becker, director and chief of legal officer for NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation, said the Supreme Court ruling offered a “clean win” to the organization and expected Smith to order CCSD to turn over the records immediately.
“We thought it was a clean win when when we submitted the (records) request in the first place,” Becker said.
During a February hearing over NPRI’s appeal, the justices noted that principals from individual schools already have made about 8,000 email addresses public on school websites.
“What’s the big deal?” asked Justice Michael Cherry.
Contact Neal Morton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @nealtmorton.