The State Worker

Profane email prompts probe of California Department of Education worker

The Department of Education Building at 15th and N Street’s in Sacramento.
The Department of Education Building at 15th and N Street’s in Sacramento. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

California education officials said Tuesday that they are investigating a staff member for allegedly sending inappropriate emails.

Such emails are nothing new in the workplace. But the following may be viewed as a cautionary tale.

One of the probed missives appears to have landed in the inbox of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab, a research laboratory under the Interwork Institute at San Diego State University.

Dr. J. Luke Wood, a professor and social scientist at SDSU, told The Sacramento Bee that a vulgar email from a mid-level employee in the Department of Education’s charter schools division came in response to the lab’s new report on food and housing insecurities in community colleges.

Wood said he and his colleagues have been presenting the report to education leaders and decided to send it to K-12 state employees charged with shaping policy – in part because so many of their high school graduates go on to attend community colleges.

“The purpose of the report was to raise greater awareness of challenges most folks aren’t even paying attention to,” Wood said.

All of the responses had been positive. Then came the offending remark.

“Go f--- yourself,” the education official responded Monday from his work account, ending in

Wood, who was monitoring the lab’s email for media inquiries, said he was so taken aback that he called the emailer at the number provided in his email. When he confronted the state worker, Wood said he was complained to about needlessly “spamming” the recipient’s account. When Wood assured him that it was only one email, which included a report the professor believed would be instructive, the state worker said it had nothing to do with his work.

Wood said the education official interrupted, and in childlike fashion began chanting “Blah. Blah. Blah.”

“Then he hung up the phone,” said Wood. He took his complaint to the office of state school’s chief Tom Torlakson.

The education official did not respond to a voice message from The Bee, which has decided to withhold his name.

Peter Tira, a spokesman for the education department, said he could not comment on any specific emails, and instead released a statement.

“These emails in no way reflect the views of the California Department of Education,” Tira said in the statement. “We expect CDE employees to conduct themselves with the highest professional standards.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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