Increasingly, I’ve seen organizations get restrictive about sharing content for public schools as podcasts/vidcasts. Often, educators who attend those events take the initiative to record the event and share it for non-commercial, educational purposes…and then receive an email or warning that the content SHOULD NOT have been shared, even though, their audience was clearly public school educators who need to know the information.

It is difficult to imagine justifying the censorship of citizen-journalists to protect organizational principles…the juxtaposition of the organization’s conflicting desire to “share this information with others” with their restrictive policies about podcasting the content. Perhaps, some of the reasoning is as follows:

  • Fear of how the information will be used.
  • Maybe, the organization is afraid that they will be mis-quoted (how likely is that to be with a podcast/vidcast) or that
  • The presenter was particularly poor that day and they would just like that presentation to fade into history.
  • They make money off every presentation they give for schools and service centers, so they don’t want that opportunity diminished by podcasters, etc.

Here is a list of those organizations that have imposed restrictions–as far as I’m aware–about having their content shared with Texas educators:

  1. Texas Education Agency
  2. Texas Education Telecommunications Network (TETN)
  3. Texas Association of School Boards
  4. TCEA’s Technology Education Coordinators Special Interest Group (TEC-SIG)
  5. Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA)

I urge Texas educators to join together and encourage positive, constructive change in these organizations. After all, I wouldn’t want anyone to get emails like the one a fellow technology director received who podcast a valuable presentation on email retention, a critical topic for many in K-12 schools who have been starving for definitive information about the subject:

Dear Mr. [REMOVED],

It has come to my attention that a presentation by [REMOVED] a staff attorney in our office, is posted as a podcast on your site:

Podcast/Entries/2007/5/10_Email_Retention.html

I am writing to request that you pull down the entry. Although we certainly appreciate your effort to share resources with the school community, we prefer to maintain this presentation as one of a handful of presentations we make in person at ESCs and school districts. Consequently, we would ask that the content of the presentation not be made available in this manner.

I apologize for any past miscommunication or future inconvenience.

[REMOVED]
Texas Association of School Boards

Phone 800.580.5345
Fax 512.467.3522
PO Box 400
Austin, TX 78767-0400
legal.tasb.org
Thursday, November 20, 2008 – 03:26 PM

More on email retention:

ne district tech coordinator asked for more information on “Email Legalities — include email retention and meeting public information request requirements”

Although I hadn’t had time to look into it too much, the subject came to mind after reading this article on a related subject– Email and Litigation from the Linux Magazine.

Whenever a lawsuit is in the offing — from patent litigation to prosecuting a sexual harassment suit — email is the best source of a “smoking gun,” or evidence that almost ensures a victory or lucrative settlement for one side.

The author, making the point above, went on to discuss a variety of strategies that companies could implement to protect themselves from email litigation. In this other article on the subject, this point is made:

The good news is that an e-mail that accurately corroborates your version of the facts can be of supreme, strategic importance. The bad news is that most people do not anticipate that their e-mails may end up as an exhibit in a courtroom, where each page will be projected on a large screen and parsed for meaning and intent. Often as a result, little care is taken in wording e-mails, leaving the author with an unconvincing — and potentially devastating — “I know that’s what I said but that’s not what I meant” explanation. E-mail authors often find themselves in the position of having unintentionally documented the other side’s case.
Source: Law.com

This second article had some specific suggestions, including the following:

1-Stop incriminating e-mails before they are sent by sensitizing personnel–in other words, training them–to the damage that ill-conceived and poorly worded e-mails can do. Training must also include easy-to-use, pro-active techniques that personnel can use to ensure that e-mails work in their favor.

2-Designated supervisory personnel must regularly monitor e-mails, using sampling and/or word-search techniques.

3-Do not implement a wholesale e-mail deletion policy could result in the elimination of not only the bad evidence, but also the good evidence — the e-mails you may need to prove your case.

Even if you do delete messages as part of district policy, one wonders if a district’s situation would be similar to that of this business who failed to stop deleting emails in the face of pending litigation:

The court found that management had a duty to preserve employment and termination documents when it learned of the potential litigation, but little had been preserved and subsequently produced. Also, the lack of a paper trail documenting Broccoli’s interaction with his supervisors and co-workers helped Echostar with its impeachment of Broccoli’s former supervisors and was prejudicial. “Echostar clearly acted in bad faith in its failure to suspend its email and data destruction policy or preserve essential personnel documents in order to fulfill its duty to preserve the relevant documentation for purposes of potential litigation.”
Source: Electronic Discovery Law

A few other points about email retention in Texas:

  • (1) Administrative Correspondence, 1.1.007 – Incoming/outgoing and internal correspondence, in any format, pertaining to the formulation, planning, implementation, interpretation, modification, or redefinition of the programs, services, or projects of an agency and the administrative regulations, policies and procedures that govern them. Subject to Archival review. Retention: 3 years.
  • (2) General Correspondence, 1.1.008 – Non-administrative incoming/outgoing and internal correspondence, in any media, pertaining to or arising from the routine operations of the policies, programs, services, or projects of an agency. Retention: 1 year.
  • (1) Archival state record–A state record of enduring value that will be preserved on a continuing basis by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission or another state agency until the state archivist indicates that based on a reappraisal of the record it no longer merits further retention.

    (2) Electronic mail record–An electronic state record sent or received in the form of a message on an electronic mail system of a state agency, including any attachments transmitted with the message.


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