Electronic Records Discovery

3 08 2007

Today I sat in on a session at our Oklahoma Career Tech conference called “Electronic Records Discovery.” It was presented by Assistant Attorney General Glen Hammonds. (I wish I had the handouts electronically.) It’s a scary topic for me. I know that companies deal with it on occasion, but that schools are not immune to it either. I know that my superintendent is very concerned about this topic – therefore, I should be too.

The attorney general indicated that there are no specific laws (and this may only be for Oklahoma) for schools. There are, however, specific laws pertaining to certain types of data and how long one must retain the information. A member of the group brought up the fact that many software companies are touting that they have solutions for this issue and are using fear to promote their product. In addition, educational journals are also giving a somewhat false impression that schools must abide by the same laws that corporations do. I am not an attorney, so I do not know, but it is all very unclear.

Mr. Hammonds described “‘discovery’ as limited to documents and records that have been preserved.”

An important point is that if you fail to preserve a document once litigation is filed (or will be filed), a jury can pursue the strongest allowable sentence against an organization, whether or not the destruction of the document was intentional or not. (for example, what if you accidentally erased a hard drive?)

Things that could be considerd part of a data request during discovery include: emails, documents, databases, and documents on any kind of storage device, including palm pilots, external hard drives, flash drives, etc.

He pointed out that electronics records discovery could be something that would be needed not only if your school was being sued, but if your school was suing someone else. I asked the question about if your school policy stated that you purge your email every 90 days and followed that policy on a regular basis, was that acceptable?

His reply was that was a good way to handle things. However, he said that it would depend on the topic of the email. For example, email pertaining to finances or personnel matters might have to be kept for a longer period of time. Someone else asked who was resposible for deciding this? He first said the school board, then the superintendent, then basically the person responsible for the data, then the recipient of the email. Another example, if the finance director sent out an email to multiple people regarding something financial, the finance director could be responsible for maintaining that record rather than multiple people.

Nothing seems clear cut. Somehow, I feel like we need a specific policy for all employees. We’re getting ready to implement a new email system called Zimbra. This might be a good time to talk about the importance of this topic. Then, we have the question of what do we do with the data we have archived in our old email system. We won’t have the application software anymore once we switch over. If we have to retrieve the old data, what would we read it with. We will have to unarchive it all and upload it to the new server.

Does this topic scare anyone else? Your thoughts?




One response

5 08 2007

I’ve tagged you on 8 random facts meme

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