Education Week has an article detailing one school district’s response to the challenges posed by law suits and data management:
[The district’s network manager] spent his days putting an electronic archiving system in place in response to revised rules from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding federal lawsuits. The rules, updated in December 2006, require companies, government agencies, school districts, and generally any organization that might be sued in federal court to have systems for retrieving electronic data such as e-mail correspondence if it is needed as evidence in a federal case.
That means districts need to develop policies and software systems for the storage of e-mail, instant messages, word processing documents, PowerPoint presentations, and any type of electronic file on a computer system. The new requirements have caught many districts by surprise, and school officials are now playing catch-up to adopt policies and make sure they have the needed software.
One driving force behind the district’s move was to “avoid an IT nightmare”:
“If you’re called upon to produce information on backup tapes, and you have to restore every set of backup tapes, that’s an IT nightmare,” says Michael Ivanov, the senior director of archiving at CommVault, an Oceanport, N.J.-based information-management company that provides e-mail archiving services, and whose clients include the Middletown district and the 20,000-student Moore, Okla., schools.
One Miami-based lawyer warns those districts who have not moved to shore up their own procedures and IT infrastructure:
While some districts, particularly smaller ones, may believe they don’t need to worry about the new rules that pertain to federal lawsuits, Lindsay, the Miami-based lawyer, says they should think again because state procedures typically take their cues from the federal courts. It’s only a matter of time, he says, before states begin adopting similar requirements regarding electronic content and lawsuits.
“The states haven’t adopted similar rules regarding electronic discovery yet, but they will,” he warns. “They all will.”
Changes to the FRCP were made to reflect changes in society, so state laws, if they haven’t already, will have to do likewise. These rules may not be identical to the Federal rules, but no court is going accept excuses in the place of competent execution of policies and implementation of appropriate technology.