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Voices: Protect our kids from inappropriate emails

School choice advocate Karin Piper says her group’s request for emails exchanged via Dougco district accounts is intended to protect students and parents from inappropriate communications.

After following up on complaints from parents and community members with a public records request, Parent Led Reform has called on the Douglas County School District to further investigate ‘inappropriate emails’ in the school communication system.

The emails found include political campaigning, recruitment by groups that denigrate school district policies and union-generated anti-school district messaging shared with students via their school Google accounts.

The Colorado Open Records Act or CORA permits ordinary people like you and I to see into government operations and how our tax dollars are being used.

Public schools are a government entity, hence much of the communication through district email is a public record, while still protecting the privacy of parents – and most importantly – the students. Laws prohibit public email systems from being used for political campaigning and a host of other purposes deemed inappropriate, or a conflict of interest.

Parent Led Reform is a multi-issue parent network that advocates more parental involvement in education. Because we are parents, we understand that the integrity of a school emails system is vital to protect kids and staff from inappropriate emails.

We are greatly concerned that if these activities can take place by political groups and activists, then imagine who else may be communicating with your child via district resources? Therefore we turned over our findings to the school district and asked them to investigate and take appropriate action under the law and under the district email policy that all staff are familiar with.

PLR has been asked repeatedly why we have opted not to publicly release the names of those in question, or the public records we obtained in our research. It’s simple: While PLR understands these emails are public information, we take our stewardship of the information very seriously.

We have not released any information received as a result of our CORA request to the press, nor to any third party. We have simply turned the public information we flagged to the district where we retrieved it.

We wish that everyone would use the same integrity and professionalism.

Several of the volunteers and employees of our non-profit have been name-dropped and personally attacked by some of the individuals whose emails are in question. Threats have been sent to our homes. Libelous slander is being spread through blogs and inflammatory social media sites.

Worst of all, our children have been dragged into this by “anonymous posters” on internet sites associated with some of the individuals and groups included in the complaint of email misuse. Some are even sending messages scaring other parents from emailing their teachers and making false claims about what your school would disclose as a public record.

But we will not be intimidated.

This week, PLR received three critical months of the public records requested.

We once more will ask the Douglas County School District to continue the review and investigate this matter to protect our teachers, parents and students from inappropriate use of school email systems.

Parent Led Reform will continue to stand up for government transparency, freedom of information, Colorado’s children and the essential role of parents in education.

Join our network at www.ParentLedReform.org.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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