Policy BHE: Use of Electronic Messaging by School Committee Members

  As elected public officials, School Committee members shall exercise caution when communicating between and among themselves via electronic messaging services including, but not limited to, electronic mail (email), instant messaging, Internet web forums, and Internet chat rooms.

Electronic messaging is a rapid and convenient method of communication, but School Committee members must use it carefully in order to avoid conflicts with the Open Meeting Law and the Public Records Law. A School Committee member’s use of electronic messaging must insure that the public and the other members of the School Committee can trust that any deliberative discussions about School Committee business always will occur at public meetings.

Under the Open Meeting Law, deliberation by a quorum of members constitutes a meeting. Deliberation is defined as movement toward a decision including, but not limited to, the sharing of an opinion regarding business over which the Committee has supervision, control, or jurisdiction. A quorum may be arrived at sequentially using electronic messaging without knowledge and intent by the author.

School Committee members should use electronic messaging between and among members only for housekeeping purposes such as requesting or communicating agenda items, meeting times, or meeting dates. It may also be used to schedule meetings, send informative messages, request information, or send similar communications which are administrative in nature. Electronic messaging should not be used to discuss Committee business that requires public discussion under the Open Meeting Law.

Under the Public Records Law, electronic messages by, between, and among public officials may be considered public records, unless there is a statutory reason to exempt the record. (MGL 4:7) Electronic messages about School Committee business sent to anyone by a School Committee member are considered public documents. School Committee members should have no expectation that such electronic messages are private. Similarly, electronic messages on School Committee business sent by the public to a School Committee member are also considered public documents.

Electronic mail can be requested as a public record, and it may be used as evidence in legal proceedings.

The Chair of the School Committee will provide members with current guidelines for the length of time they should retain various categories of electronic correspondence in their computer files or as paper copies.

LEGAL REF:

MGL Chapter 4:7 , Chapter 39:23A , 39:23B , Chapter 66:10


Region Voted to Approve: 10/10/06
Amherst Voted to Approve: 11/14/06
Pelham Voted to Approve: 11/02/06
Effective Date: 11/14/06 
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