Legal Question of the Week – 11/21/13

By Attorney Thomas B. Mooney, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut

The “Legal Question of the Week” is a regular feature of the CAS Weekly NewsBlast. We invite readers to submit short, law-related questions of practical concern to school administrators. Each week, we will select a question and publish an answer. While these answers cannot be considered formal legal advice, they may be of help to you and your colleagues. We may edit your questions, and we will not identify the authors. Please submit your questions to: legalmailbagatcasciacdotorg. _________________________________________________________________________________________


Dear Legal Mailbag:

I have a confession. I was talking to a parent, and I lost it. She called me to complain that her precious little daughter was bored in school, and she kept going on and on about “dimwit teachers” who aren’t smart enough to challenge her daughter with a rigorous curriculum. I tried to be polite, but her arrogance and presumption finally got to me. “Well, Ms. Einstein,” I said sarcastically, “You must be so proud to have raised the smartest child in our school. I am SO sorry that our teachers just don’t measure up.” After an awkward moment of silence, the parent responded. “I hope you do know that I am recording this conversation . . . .”

All I could do is apologize, and I did explain that I did not know that I was being recorded. I did not want to make it worse by telling her what I was really thinking – that she is a snake for secretly recording me and that I would love to sue her for invading my privacy. Can I report her to the police? Do I have any other claim? If I do, I want to sue her for all she is worth.

Wordlessly Waiting


Dear Waiting:

You should really calm down. Getting mad at this parent isn’t good for you or your career. Under state and federal law, it is a crime to record a telephone conversation unless at least one party to the conversation consents to the recording. See Connecticut General Statutes, Section 53a-187. Since the parent was a party to the conversation and consented to its recording, however, this parent is not looking at jail time.

That said, you do have a remedy. Under Connecticut law, it is illegal to record a telephone (or cell phone) conversation unless all parties to the conversation consent. Connecticut General Statutes, Section 52-570d. Since you did not consent, the parent violated your rights in recording the conversation. Moreover, the statute provides that you may sue for damages in superior court, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Before you get too excited, remember that this conversation is likely to get back to the Superintendent, one way or the other. If I were you, I would fess up to the Superintendent about your intemperate remarks (which weren’t so bad, after all). Also, I would be realistic about the “damages” that you have and forego bringing a legal action. Rather, I think you are better off simply to give the parent a friendly heads-up that her conduct was illegal.

Finally, the whole topic of electronic communications and privacy rights is fascinating but complicated. Last June, the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut published a comprehensive guide, “Privacy Rights in Connecticut,” that explains the intricacies of privacy laws in Connecticut. It is available online at, and I recommend it without reservation.