Policy BHE: Use of Electronic Messaging by School Committee Members

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

Electronic messaging is a rapid and convenient method of communication,but School Committee members must use it carefully in order to avoidconflicts with the Open Meeting Law and the Public Records Law. ASchool Committee member’s use of electronic messaging must insure thatthe public and the other members of the School Committee can trust thatany deliberative discussions about School Committee business always willoccur at public meetings.

Under the Open Meeting Law, deliberation by a quorum of membersconstitutes a meeting. Deliberation is defined as movement toward adecision including, but not limited to, the sharing of an opinionregarding business over which the Committee has supervision, control, orjurisdiction. A quorum may be arrived at sequentially using electronicmessaging without knowledge and intent by the author.

School Committee members should use electronic messaging between andamong members only for housekeeping purposes such as requesting orcommunicating agenda items, meeting times, or meeting dates. It mayalso be used to schedule meetings, send informative messages, requestinformation, or send similar communications which are administrative innature. Electronic messaging should not be used to discuss Committeebusiness that requires public discussion under the Open Meeting Law.

Under the Public Records Law, electronic messages by, between, andamong public officials may be considered public records, unless there isa statutory reason to exempt the record. (MGL 4:7) Electronic messagesabout School Committee business sent to anyone by a School Committeemember are considered public documents. School Committee members shouldhave no expectation that such electronic messages are private.Similarly, electronic messages on School Committee business sent by thepublic to a School Committee member are also considered publicdocuments.

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 currentguidelines for the length of time they should retain various categoriesof 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