School Board Cybertraps 102

  • Some recent examples of school board cybertraps

  • AZ – Google Drive with “dossiers” on parents
    • Great example of a classic cybertrap – unintended disclosure of Google Drive URL
  • CA – Board president arrested for possession of child pornography

  • MA – Hostile text messages

  • NJ – Anti-Muslim Facebook posts

  • TX – Alleged “doxxing” of parents

  • VT – Sharing of sexist and racist memes

  • WA – Transphobic comments by board member

  • CA – School board mocks parents during COVID, entire board resigned

  • Issues Raised

  • Relationship with Constituents
    • Most boards have policies requiring board members to treat the public with dignity and respect.
  • Relationship with Educators and Staff
    • Criticism of specific individuals is highly inappropriate, given board’s role in disciplinary proceedings
  • First Amendment Issues
    • Board members have greater protection than school employees because of political process
    • At the same time, the social media comments of public officials are subject to greater scrutiny
    • Tension between supporting legally-adopted district policies and free speech
  • Public Records Obligations
    • Board members should maintain a clear boundary between personal and board resources (i.e., devices, accounts, etc.)
    • Regardless of what platform or service is used, public officials have a duty to preserve communications regarding official business
  • Understanding How Technology Works
    • Privacy Settings
    • Retweets and re-sharing inevitably will be seen as endorsements
  • Discipline of Board Members
    • Can a board remove one of its members?
    • Generally, no.
    • However, board may take other actions, including:
      • Censure
      • Removal from positions of leadership
    • Even criminal arrest and conviction is not grounds for removal from office
    • However, access restrictions can be put in place
  • Misuse of School Resources
    • Misconduct involving the use of school resources may raise legal issues for the district and possible criminal consequences for board member
  • Cybertraps of Family Members
    • Generally not a legal concern for board members
    • May pose political liability
  • Resources

– #2021–12–08 Protesters demand Salem-Keizer board member Danielle Bethell resign after Facebook post “” – #2021–12–06 Parents demand Hispanic Fort Worth school board member be fired after she ‘doxxed’ white parents who sued over COVID mask mandate and left abusive voicemails for one mother “–10280653/Hispanic-Fort-Worth-school-board-member-admits-doxxing-parents-sued-COVID-mask-mandate.html” – #2021–12–02 Scottsdale Police determine no criminal conduct committed by school board member “” – #2021–11–09 The Greenburg files: Is there a file on you? “,270628” – #2021–06–07 After sharing racially charged texts about West Roxbury families in October, a Boston school official has resigned “”](

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