September 5, 2023 - 9:00 pm
The Nevada Public Records Act doesn’t include an exception for emails public employees want to keep hidden. The Clark County School District allowed them to be deleted anyway.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada is currently suing the district over records from a February confrontation at Durango High School. Two police officers were arresting a student. A video showed Lt. Jason Elfberg then detained a second student, pulling him backwards. The student, who is Black, stumbled and fell to the ground with Mr. Elfberg on top of him.
Initially, Superintendent Jesus Jara seemed to agree with the concerns. He called for a review of the district’s use-of-force policies. There was also an investigation into the confrontation. Apparently, the district didn’t find much. In a June meeting with the Review-Journal editorial board, Mr. Jara said that the officer remained employed and the district wasn’t changing its use-of-force policy.
It would be much easier to have an informed opinion on this event if the district wasn’t hiding so much information about it. The Review-Journal requested the incident report and body camera footage. The district denied the request, laughably arguing the public records law didn’t require them to be produced.
The ACLU of Nevada is also in court fighting for similar records and emails about the confrontation. District Judge Danielle Chio should enforce the law and require the district to turn over those records.
In court last Friday, the district admitted something shocking. For years, its employees had the ability to mark an email confidential. The system then deleted those emails on a date set by the employee. A statement from the district said Gmail first offered this feature in 2019. The district didn’t prevent employees from using this feature until March 2023.
This is outrageous, and it exposes a rot that goes deeper than a single incident. The district has been responding to record requests for years and potentially not including all required emails. Very likely, some emails marked “confidential” contained information someone asked for. After all, why set an email for self-destruct unless it involved something an employee wants to hide? But the requester and the public will never know because those emails are gone.
This doesn’t just violate the spirit of Nevada’s public records law. It violates the law. Even in a district with a long and well-deserved reputation for opaqueness, this is a shameful new low.