Skip to content

Judge bars newspaper from printing pictures of students punished for drinking

Post categories

  1. Prior Restraint
Judge bars newspaper from printing pictures of students punished for drinking 03/22/1994 TENNESSEE -- A Sevierville newspaper cannot publish photographs…

TENNESSEE — A Sevierville newspaper cannot publish photographs of students taken when they attended an alternative learning center class as punishment for drinking alcohol on a school trip because it would violate a state law that keeps educational records secret, a judge ruled in mid-March.

The Sevier County Board of Education obtained a temporary restraining order from Sevier County Circuit Court Judge William Holt when it filed suit against the Mountain Press to prevent the paper from publishing the pictures of the students. The board, in its complaint, cited concern for the anonymity of the students because they are juveniles. Robert Ogle, the Mountain Press attorney, said the paper did not receive any complaints from students or parents asking the paper not to publish the photographs.

In mid-March, the board sought to make the injunction permanent and after a hearing, Judge Holt ruled for the board, ordering that the paper was permanently prohibited from publishing the photos. Holt cited a state statute that makes the records of students in public educational institutions confidential and reasoned that publishing pictures of students participating in a disciplinary procedure would disclose their disciplinary behavior or record.

Ogle said that the paper has not decided whether to appeal.

(Sevier County Board of Education v. Worrell Enterprises, Inc.; Media Counsel: Robert Ogle, Sevierville)

The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.