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Think Tank: Government Censors Intercept Emails Informing Workers of Rights

Big Brother may be alive and well at the Clark County School District. Censors at CCSD are blocking messages informing teachers of their workplace rights, according to the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

Teachers who are members of the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) have just a two-week window each year, from July 1 through July 15, in which to opt out of the union. Just prior to that window each of the last few years, NPRI has sent an email to CCSD teachers informing them of their right to opt out.

On June 2, NPRI sent emails to more than 12,000 teachers in the district. According to Chantal Lovell, NPRI’s Deputy Communications Director, the group realized almost immediately their emails were not going through. In past years around 2,000 teachers had opened their emails but this year, only a “nominal” number were opened.

After a series of tests to determine the source of the problem, eventually they concluded their emails had been blocked. A technical team NPRI consulted with determined “it’s not a problem on our end. It’s on the school district’s end,” Lovell said.

While NPRI’s emails have been blocked, she stated that the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) and the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA), the local and state teachers unions, have been able to send emails to CCSD teachers at their school district email addresses.

When contacted by Watchdog Wire – Nevada, Kirsten Searer, Chief of Staff and External Relations in the Office of the Superintendent of the CCSD, stated in an email,

“The Clark County School District has more than 38,000 employees, so our email system is a frequent target of marketers, spammers, phishers, etc. We have taken action to protect our employees from spammers in order to ensure that our district email system remains an effective communication system for our teachers.

“We must err on the side of caution — without spam filters, our teachers and other employees would receive hundreds of emails a day, making it difficult for them to sort through their inboxes and answer legitimate messages from students, parents and other CCSD employees. In the 2013-2014 school year, our district spam filters blocked 208 million spam/virus emails.”

Searer’s statement to Watchdog Wire does not address the criteria the CCSD uses to filter emails nor, according to Lovell, did the district provide NPRI with that information.

“We’re not trying to bombard teachers with emails and interrupt their work,” Lovell said. “We’re just sending one email informing teachers of their rights.”

In a statement released by the think tank, NPRI President Andy Matthews stated,

It is outrageous that a government agency would censor communications between teachers and a private group. It also raises First Amendment concerns, because the Clark County Education Association, another private organization, is able to email teachers.

It’s wrong for a government agency to use taxpayer dollars to pick and choose who communicates with government employees.

Communication with a government employee shouldn’t be reserved exclusively for those approved by a government agency.

Over the past two years, over 1,200 teachers in Clark County have left the CCEA as a result of NPRI’s opt-out campaign, and now CCSD is aggressively preventing teachers from being able to make their own decisions about union membership. NPRI’s teacher union opt-out campaign is about providing Nevada educators with the information they need and deserve to make an informed decision.

The fact that CCSD would intentionally intercept emails intended for its employees should be maddening for its teachers and deeply concerning for the public that pays the district’s bills.

NPRI is also using billboards as part of its campaign to inform teachers of their rights, unveiling some of these shortly after its emails were blocked.

Michael Chamberlain

Michael Chamberlain is the Editor of Watchdog Wire - Nevada. Please contact him at Nevada@watchdogwire.com for story ideas or to get involved in citizen journalism in Nevada. Follow Michael on Twitter: @michaelpchamber

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Categories: Education, Government Transparency, Must Read, News, Policy, Waste, Fraud and Abuse
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