E-mail messages from teachers’-union leaders don’t become public records just because they’re contained in a school district’s computer system, the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled.
The court last week overturned a trial judge’s decision in a 2007 case involving the Howell, Mich., schools. A Livingston County circuit judge had ruled the e-mails fell under the Freedom of Information Act.
The case began when the Howell schools received a series of requests for the release of e-mail messages from three officials of the Howell Education Association. The district and the union agreed on a “friendly” suit to establish whether the e-mail traffic was subject to disclosure because it was recorded in the district’s computer system.
In the decision, the three appeals judges said the case presented a “difficult question requiring that we apply a statute, whose purpose is to render government transparent, to a technology that did not exist in reality (or even in many people’s imaginations) at the time.”
A version of this article appeared in the February 03, 2010 edition of Education Week as Michigan Court Rules E-Mails Not Public