By The Signal Editorial Board
As a general rule, we strongly favor the most open government, with the most free flow of information possible.
However, especially in today’s environment, there are situations in which information can be too free-flowing. State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, recognized just such a situation earlier this year when he received a report from a constituent who was concerned that, after participating as a speaker at a school board meeting, her personal information — including her residential address — was included in the official minutes of the board meeting.
By including that information, the Saugus Union School District was not breaking the law, and in fact was not doing anything especially unusual.
However, what might have been considered routine many years ago is now considered potentially dangerous. With growing concern over crimes like identity theft, stalking and harassment, it’s understandable that one would have trepidation about making their residential address or phone number part of the public record of a government agency’s meeting.
Recognizing this, Wilk met with then-SUSD Superintendent Joan Lucid about the issue, and the district subsequently did the responsible thing and changed its policy.
Recognizing the same issue could be occurring elsewhere, Wilk authored Senate Bill 1036, which was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill prohibits educational institutions from including directory or personal information of a student or parent in their meeting minutes.
It’s simple legislation. And, even though it results in slightly less information being made part of the public record, it’s good legislation. Under SB 1036, the names of those participating in public meetings will remain public — as they should be. Anonymous participation should not be allowed.
However, it’s also entirely acceptable to protect participants from having personal information released. It’s a reasonable balance between two important concerns: public information and public safety.