Thursday, April 14, 2011

Do we need to archive student emails?

This is a question that came up in the Illinois Google EDU user's group this morning.


Let me start off with the disclaimer that I am not a Lawyer

Referencing this from the State of Illinois (where I work):


Effective January 1, 2001, the Local Records Act (50 ILCS 205) is amended to allow Local Government agencies to reproduce existing public records in a digitized electronic format with the intent to dispose of the original records. This practice is only allowable if the electronic records are reproduced on a "durable medium that accurately and legibly reproduces the original record in all details," and "that does not permit additions, deletions, or changes to the original document images." In addition, the digital records must be "retained in a trustworthy manner so that the records, and the information contained in the records, are accessible and usable for subsequent reference at all times while the information must be retained." Each agency is also under the obligation to file a Records Disposal Certificate with the appropriate Local Records Commission before any original record may be disposed of and before the reproduced digital record is disposed of. Click here for the Guidelines Summary.

To understand that paragraph you must understand what a record is (from Local Records Act (50 ILCS 205))

"Public record" means any book, paper, map, photograph, digitized electronic material, or other official documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made, produced, executed or received by any agency or officer pursuant to law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by such agency or officer, or any successor thereof, as evidence of the organization, function, policies, decisions, procedures, or other activities thereof, or because of the informational data contained therein. Library and museum material made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibition purposes, extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience of reference, and stocks of publications and of processed documents are not included within the definition of public record. 

The key pieces from our point of view (within the realm of technology) is that any digitized electronic material made, produced, executed or received by any agency or officer pursuant to law or in connection with the transaction of public business must be "retained in a trustworthy manner so that the records, and the information contained in the records, are accessible and usable for subsequent reference at all times while the information must be retained."

Do we need to maintain Student emails?

In my opinion we are not obligated to retain their emails or documents because:

·         They are not an agency or officer of public business
·         Their personal records are protected from disclosure to the public under FERPA
o   “FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.
o   “Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record.

Just as we are not required to hold on to every assignment, notes between students, or notes from students to teachers we are not required to hold on to every email a student has ever composed or sent from our email systems.

However, there are well defined records we are required to maintain (more about that later), student email just isn't one of them.

Again, just for the record, I am not a lawyer - I just like blogging about this kind of stuff...

0 comments: