Public Records Tip of the Month

Below is the first Public Records Tip of the Month, submitted by Diana Crawford, the school district’s Public Disclosure Officer. This month’s blog post focuses on public records on personal electronic devices and in personal email accounts.

The Washington State Supreme Court has recently ruled in Nissen v. Pierce County, 183 Wn.2d 863 (2015) that any records, including emails and text messages located on personal cell phones, personal computers and other personal devices or in private email accounts are “public records” if the employee created or received the records while acting in an official “Agency” capacity.

This ruling should be considered as an OSD employee, (teacher, para, support staff, coach or administrator) conducts OSD-related business on personal devices and in personal email accounts.

Examples where public records may be found on personal devices or email:

  • Personal cell phones:  Texts, PDF readers & Photos
  • Personal email accounts:  In Box, Sub folders, spam/junk folder, sent folder, deleted/trash folders
  • Personal computer:  desktop, subfolder, download folder
  • Other types of accounts: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
  • Other types of devices:  iPad or tablet, digital cameras

Using district Gmail on a home computer, or using a Gmail app downloaded onto a personal cell phone set up with an district employees’ Gmail could help to make it convenient to send and receive district email in a way that doesn’t compromise personal privacy and is archived and searchable by the district.