Legalities

Overview

Inside

Williamson Shriver Architects

The Thrasher Group

McKinley Architects & Engineers

February 7 2020 - Volume 40 Issue 5

Legalities

By Trey Morrone

Q. What guidance do county boards have regarding records retention? Is there a need to ‘convert’ hardcopy records to electronic format? If so, what records would apply? What about personnel records?

A.The practical significance of your questions is compelling, because county boards of education are generating and receiving volumes of documents each day. The premature disposal of those records could be detrimental to the interests of both county boards and the public.

Historically, county boards had little choice but to maintain and store records in paper format. The retention of paper records obligated the county board to expend valuable resources to maintain sufficient storage space and the staffing necessary to organize, file, locate and retrieve the documents. Clutter and fire were hazards were ongoing concerns.

Technological advances have enabled county boards to electronically store records. A document management system (DMS) is a system used to track, manage and store documents and reduce paper. Currently, there isno requirement that county boards convert records to electronic format or maintained in any particular format for that matter.

Perhaps, the most important question about record retention by a county board is, “How long are we required to maintain records?” The answer to this question varies, depending on the type of document.

The Records Retention Schedule for the Financial Records of the Public Schools in the State of West Virginia is a must-have for county boards. The schedule was developed by the West Virginia Department of Education, Office of School Finance, in cooperation with the Accounting Procedures Committee, and it provides guidance as to the minimum period of time that financial, personnel and various other business records of a county board must be maintained. The retention periods are mandatory. Disposal of records at the conclusion of the retention period is optional, not required. While the schedule is extensive, it should not be considered all-inclusive. The complete document can be found at https://wvde.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Records-Retention-Schedule.pdf. Additional guidance records not listed may be sought from the Office of School Finance.

Procedures for the collection, maintenance and disclosure of student data or student records are addressed in State Board of Education Policy 4350. Section 12 specifically addresses the maintenance and destruction of education records. It also includes specific exceptions to destroying records. For example, education records cannot be destroyed if there is an outstanding request to inspect and review them, academic grades and attendance records may be maintained in perpetuity, and parents and students must be informed through public notice of any timelines established for maintenance and destruction of records. Policy 4350 can be found at https://wvde.state.wv.us/policies/.

Finally, be sure to check your county board policy manual for any policies that specify how long particular records must or may be retained. A county policy must be followed unless it conflicts with provisions of the State Departments’ Records Retention Schedule, State Board policy, or other state or federal statutes or rules.

Morrone is special counsel at Bowles Rice LLP and a member of the firm’s Education Law Group.