NJSBA’s practice of not releasing personal contact information of local school board members is being challenged in a complaint that was filed Sept. 6 in Mercer County Superior Court. The complaint by the New Jersey Taxpayers’ Association contends that NJSBA violated the Open Public Records Act by not fulfilling its request to provide board members’ personal email addresses.
NJSBA has complied with OPRA since the law’s enactment in 2002. While the Association will release the names of board members and their school district contact information, including district-issued email addresses, it does not provide personal email addresses.
When compiling its membership census, NJSBA gives local school board secretaries the option of providing either board members’ personal email addresses or their school district-issued email addresses, based upon the individual member’s preference. When a personal email address is provided to NJSBA, it has been with the understanding that the address will be for the Association’s use only.
The taxpayer association’s complaint followed its request for all board member email addresses – including personal email addresses – for use in distributing an electronic survey.
Information that Was Provided In response to the taxpayer association’s request, NJSBA provided the group with the following electronic documents: a listing of all local school board members by district; a listing of all local school board members who provided district-issued email addresses; and a listing of school business administrators/board secretaries with their district email addresses.
The Association’s custodian of public records, however, denied the request for personal email addresses, based upon her interpretation of the Open Public Records Act.
OPRA Not Clear “The law is not clear as to the obligation to release the personal email addresses as collected by the Association for its database. We hope that the resolution of this matter will provide direction to ensure that the Association’s policies and practices remain in compliance with OPRA,” said Cynthia Jahn, Esq., NJSBA general counsel.
NJSBA will keep members apprised of developments, so that they are aware of whether or not the Association may continue implementing its long-standing policy, which prohibits staff from releasing the personal email addresses of board members.