The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has advised the Conway School District‘s attorney of “prospective litigation” and has asked the district to preserve all emails and other evidence.

The Nov. 21 ACLU letter to Jay Bequette, attorney for the district, did not specify what any lawsuit might cover, though Superintendent Jeff Collum today emailed staff and said any litigation would be over two district policies targeting transgender students and a proposed policy that would severely restrict the teaching of dozens of concepts, including parts of American history.

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“It’s not wrong to say we’re considering that,” ACLU of Arkansas attorney Gary Sullivan said today. “That’s not the only things we’re considering, though.”

In the email, Collum advised staff to archive emails related to the transgender topics and proposed policy 5.5.2 or to share them with assistant superintendent Joel Linn so that they would not be automatically deleted after three days.

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Yet, Collum or Bequette apparently misread the ACLU’s letter because, first, the ACLU letter never states what topics would be the subject of any legal action. Further, the letter serves as a legal notice to preserve all potential evidence and ask that all emails and other forms of communication be preserved, not just those Collum mentioned.

Certainly two subjects of a lawsuit could well be the school district’s new policies forcing transgender students and adults to use the restroom for the gender cited on their original birth certificates and a similar policy targeting overnight stays during school trips, Sullivan told the Arkansas Times. Another likely target, as Collum noted, is policy proposal 5.5.2 —  which would ban the teaching of what some far-right conservatives view as “divisive concepts” — slavery in America, for instance. The board hasn’t voted on the “divisive concepts” proposal.

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But other topics such as book banning and evasions of the Freedom of Information Act also could be subjects of a lawsuit.

Further, the Conway School Board, on a unanimous vote, recently ordered two books — both about transgender young people — removed from a school library despite a committee’s recommendation that the books be retained.

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Under Collum, the district also has adopted a three-day email deletion policy where emails are automatically deleted if they are not archived. As a result, some public records are destroyed faster than the public can access them.

In the letter to Bequette, Sullivan asked that board members, board employees, school district administrators and all school employees “immediately suspend their current document retention policy/policies.”

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Sullivan added: “This includes all paper files, including but not limited to handwritten notes, financial records, communications of any kind to or from faculty and staff, board members, and parents, as well as electronic records, including but not limited to, all electronic mail, electronic files of all types (Microsoft Word, Excel, Adobe, etc.), recordings of telephone calls or meetings, voicemail messages, video and audio tapes, and financial records. Note, this request applies to electronic records stored or generated on employer-provided OR personally owned computers, cellular telephones or handheld devices, or any other electronic devices and includes e-mails to or from board members, the superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, and Assistant Superintendents’ employer-provided accounts AND all personal email accounts. This request covers all existing records as well as any new hard copy or electronic records received or created after the date of delivery of this letter.

“Additionally, I am requesting that the above-named entities and individuals preserve all existing computer hard-drives as well as any computer hard-drives acquired after the receipt of this letter.”

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Sullivan said he believes Collum was mistaken in his letter to school staff. “I want them to save everything,” Sullivan said.

You can read the superintendent’s letter here:

 

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