Survey: Schools at Risk for E-Discovery-related Litigation

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2007-05-29 Print this article Print

The findings reveal that IT administrators are hazy on preparedness for federal e-discovery rules in K-12 school districts.

A new survey of IT administrators of kindergarten through 12th grade schools indicates that 90 percent of them have no plan in place to handle the newly mandated retention of electronically stored information by the federal court system. The findings came as a result of a customer survey released May 29 by storage vendor CommVault in Oceanport, N.J. The amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (PDF), went into effect on Dec. 1, 2006. The new regulations, sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2006, require organizations—for-profit and non-profit alike—to be able to quickly find such data when required by the federal court.
This means that every electronic document stored by an organization—e-mail, instant messages, financials, voice mail and all text and graphical documents—must be retrievable in a "reasonable" amount of time, which the court further defined as 30 days.
In the CommVault survey, only two-thirds of responding IT managers indicated that they are even aware of the amended federal court rules. Further, the survey revealed that 90 percent of schools have yet to initiate an FRCP compliance-preparedness plan. Eighty Percent Unclear on the Concept Eighty percent of the administrators surveyed said they are unclear about their governing school districts e-discovery policies, CommVault said. Overall, the survey results demonstrate a marked disconnect in school district awareness of the issues surrounding FRCP rules and the legal discovery preparedness of school districts, a CommVault spokesperson said. Click here to read more about an online resource center aiding e-discovery. "The new FRCP amendments make ESI subject to legal review and require holders of data to produce that data when needed," said Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research Inc. "The most important impact of the new FRCP amendments on organizations is that ESI, which will figure more prominently in litigation than ever before, needs to be managed properly." While most school districts are fully aware of legal amendments, many of them have yet to establish policies to address electronic discovery for schools. By not appropriately complying and managing their ESI according to federal rules, district administrators are exposing their school districts to potential litigation risk and costly legal action, the spokesperson said. Risk Exposure a Serious Problem "The new federal rules represent an urgent call to action for educators and school information technology officers to understand how information that is sent and received on school-owned equipment might be used in litigation," said Mike Ivanov, senior director and head of CommVaults Archive Center of Excellence. "The cost of litigation can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, potentially draining public school districts of valuable education funds. To reduce the impact of such threats, school technology leaders need to become students of these new rules themselves and take stock of their e-mail policies and existing technologies to ensure compliance." The need to keep tabs on e-mail, instant messages and other digital communications produced by employees and students is impacting IT purchasing decisions across the spectrum of new technology adoption. eSchool News (December 2006) reported that the ability to maintain compliance is forcing school leaders to re-evaluate their digital storage technologies and how they search through and retrieve information. Based on the survey results, top priorities for FRCP compliance among school districts are mixed, ranging from the tactical—overcoming cost and resource barriers (90 percent) and reducing the administrative burden of managing e-mail and archive needs (60 percent)—to the conceptual—mitigating risk (60 percent) and learning what FRCP means for a given school district (60 percent). For more information on CommVault and its survey, go here. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on enterprise and small business storage hardware and software.
Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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