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what would you do if you received an email not intended
for you that alleges misconduct so serious it could
lead to the dismissal of a colleague? STeVeN STolZ
examines a hypothetical case.
Consider the hypothetical case of John,
who holds an educational leadership posi-
tion at Oceania Secondary School. John as
a third party receives an email from a jun-
ior member of the teaching staff that is not
intended for him.
While its contents are clearly not
intended for a third party due to the private
and privileged information found within it,
its specific details are difficult to ignore for
two reasons: fi rst, because they suggest that
a senior member of the teaching staff is con-
sistently underperformi ng in their role to
the point that, if shown to be true, suggest
there is potentially a case for misconduct
and grounds for dismissal and secondly, it’s
the first time this has been brought to John’s
What should John do?
Is John entitled to act on the private and
Is he entitled to consider the private and
privileged information in the email to con-
stitute evidence , or not?
Should he seek out the author of the
email to verify or elaborate on their claims?
Should he just ignore the email alto-
gether as if he never received it?
Such a case is not as straight forward as
it may appear on the face of it. For instance,
John will need to weigh the privacy of the
author of the email, with whom of course
he has a professional relationship, against
his obligation to act in the best interests of
the school at all times.
While the case here is hypothetical, it
reflects in general terms a problem identi-
fied by a variety of credible sources that,
in relation to information and commu-
nication technology (ICT), some schools
now overtly or even covertly monitor
email correspondence, social networking
sites and internet usage habits, as well as
telephone conversations. Staff in some
schools report that their internet access
has been suspended when certain data
limits have been reached, certain social
networking sites have been blocked and
they have been asked to pay for private
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