The Wisconsin Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could be a defining moment in privacy for state employees. The Court will rule on whether emails of teachers are subject to open records requests – whether they are conisdered “public records.”
The matter started in 2007 when a Vesper resident requested e-mail messages to and from the Wisconsin Rapids School District computers of five teachers between March 1 and April 13 of that year.
This case is relevant on the UW campus. At least one of the campus papers has tried in the past to gain access to text messages sent by football coach Bret Bielema in response to rumors of sexual harassment or otherwise inappropriate behavior. Innocent until proven guilty, of course, which was the reasoning used by UW in denying the paper access to full records of Bielema’s communications. As John Lucas, the director of university communications notes in the comments section, UW did offer something, but parts of the records were redacted.
Simply working for a public institution, such as the university or a public school, does not mean that one’s privacy should be completely surrendered. That being said, state email accounts, phones etc. should theoretically only be used for work purposes. Erotic text messages and jokes about the dumbest student should not be on there in the first place.
It will be interesting to see how the court rules. Considering that WEAC is defending the teachers, this could easily be set up as a People vs. The Evil Teacher’s Union. It will be interesting to see who Gableman has more contempt for: open government advocates/newspapers or teachers?