Photo: DM Schools News Release
Former Des Moines superintendent Nancy Sebring resigned from her position last week over a scandal involving misuse of her work email. She had violated the district’s technology policy, which prohibits use of school computers and email accounts for personal use or the exchange of sexually explicit materials.
Sebring’s episode has become a case study for the debate about technology usage at work. Should employers ask workers to completely separate work from their regular lives? Is that a reasonable request?
The Des Moines Register recently acquired the emails via open records requests. Here’s a sample of one of her “sexually explicit” emails:
Photo: Des Moines Register
Scandalous? Well, nothing in here is hateful or even all that racy, at least on her end (and there’s the matter of that redacted text). If these were sent from Sebring’s personal account, things would have been different.
Yet, it’s these emails that have derailed Sebring’s career.
Max Read at Gawker summarizes the core issue perfectly: “Arguably, however, it is completely crazy to expect people to restrict their work time, computers, and email accounts to work business. No one who uses computers regularly thinks of computers as special work tools for doing work; they think of them as extensions of themselves.”
But, in the end, it doesn’t matter what’s fair to people — it matters what the policy is, and whether or not your bosses want to enforce it.
Sebring’s case is a reminder of that reality.
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