Cindy Marten
San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diego County’s largest public school system has revived plans to delete all emails older than one year and will pull the trigger June 1, reports NBC San Diego.

San Diego Unified School District initially planned to make the purge last July without seeking board approval or public input, and originally planned to limit email retention to just six months. That plan drew criticism from open government and media groups, including VOSD, as well as employee unions, which expressed concern about the rush without training employees how to retain older emails they might need to keep.

District officials said last year old emails need to go for cost reasons and to alleviate the burden posed by public records requests. Officials have not clearly explained the costs at stake and confirmed the district is already using free cloud-based email systems. Claims last year the district spends millions to store emails on servers ended up including other non-email costs.

VOSD has used district emails to shed light on the influence wielded by then-trustee Marne Foster, and emails helped us sort fact from fiction when reporting on the district’s artificial turf field problems. We are still waiting for 2016 budget-related emails requested more than a year ago – when the district faced a $124 million budget crisis – and recently had to fight to prevent the district from closing the request. It’s unclear whether those records will be preserved in the upcoming purge, or if the lengthy lag time that’s become routine for the district will prevent emails from ever seeing the light of day. By the time a request is fulfilled more than a year later, the emails sought may be gone.

The district’s one-year retention policy is shorter than a lot of other government agencies, some of which keep emails for two years or more. But it’s longer than some cities that keep emails a mere 30 to 180 days.

Ashly is a freelance investigative reporter. She formerly worked as a staff reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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