District Concerned about Sun Policies

The Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) was disappointed to see that in the article about the Encinal High School (EHS) gas leak ("School District under Fire," Feb. 20) the Alameda Sun failed to include sentences in the district’s statement that explained that a) teachers can talk to reporters, but b) we prefer they talk to district staff first.

The AUSD statement emailed to the Sun, said in full:

"Yes, a memo was sent by EHS administrators to EHS staff, asking that they not speak to the press. As a general rule, we do ask that teachers let district administrators talk to the media about an urgent matter such as this one, because it concerns public safety and we want to make sure that reporters (and by extension community members) get the most up-to-date and accurate information.

"In addition, the district has to ensure that its staff comply with federal laws protecting the privacy of student, employee, and health-related information. So if teachers would like to talk to the media, we ask that they check in with the district first so that everyone’s privacy is protected. "

It is not unusual for school districts to have such guidelines. Crisis situations are by nature fast-moving and emotional. Having one spokesperson helps ensure that all reporters get the same information (which is fair) and that the information provided is what community members (including parents and neighbors) need to know to stay calm and safe.

The school district would also like to request that when Sun reporters are confused as to who authored an email or other document, they simply ask us for a copy. That will readily clarify matters.

Susan Davis is the senior manager for community affairs at AUSD.

Editor’s note: The Alameda Sun trimmed the school district’s comments to fit the space available for the story. The Sun is running AUSD’s full statement here as a courtesy. Normally the only place anyone can be guaranteed that a submission would run in its entirety is inside a paid advertisement.

Further the Alameda Sun was never confused about who authored any documents. We were asked by our sources to keep this information confidential because the sources feared retaliation from AUSD.

Finally the Alameda Sun reserves the right to edit any material not printed in a paid advertisement. For example the Sun edited the above letter by substituting "the Alameda Unified School District" for the first-person plural, as well as clarifying which issue the story in question ran.

The Sun will also bear in mind the school district’s implied promise to share copies of emails or other documents for future stories.