Risque Emails Sink Career of Omaha School Chief-to-Be

It isn't just students who appear to need a reminder that it is impossible to keep private anything sent over the Internet. The former Des Moines school superintendent and the candidate for the post of the Omaha school chief, Nancy Sebring, no doubt wishes she'd remembered that, before sending sexually explicit emails to her boyfriend using the school's email system during business hours. After emails became public, in the course of an investigation conducted by The Des Moines Register, Sebring was forced to resign her Omaha job. She was scheduled to begin her new post on the first of July.

The district policy is clear in forbidding personal use of school computers and the school email system, and doubly so for using them to send sexually explicit materials.

The Register, published by Gannett, USA TODAY's parent company, obtained the e-mails through an open-records request. They show that "messages to and from Sebring and a male lover were sent using Sebring's official district email account, sometimes on a district-issued laptop and iPad. Some of the messages were sent during the school day. The emails between the two spanned from at least March 26 to May 8. School officials have said the man, who is married, does not work in the district," the paper writes.

It is likely that, as The Register predicts, the Sebring scandal and her subsequent career collapse, will serve as a warning to other public officials around the state and around the country.

In the center of the controversy are the 40 emails exchanged by Sebring and her lover over the course of six weeks. At least 12 of those mentioned sex or related acts explicitly, and there were additional emails where sex was talked of but not described.

Others refer to photos of the man's penis. In one e-mail, Sebring admits looking "periodically" at a photo during the workday, "which gets my heart racing a bit."

The Register, which filed initial and revised open-records requests on May 9, 10 and 16, blacked out segments of e-mails deemed inappropriate, to comply with the paper's guidelines, Green said.

The paper filed the initial FOI request on May 9th, and filed two subsequent requests on May 10th and May 16th. In the course of satisfying the Register's request, the school board members discovered the questionable emails, and confronted Sebring with what they found.

It has also come to light that, even before the Register's request, another FOI request was filed by the World-Herald, but Sebring managed to convince the reporter to limit the scope of the request to emails between Sebring and the people of Omaha.

06 9, 2012
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