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Judge issues restraining order on student records stories

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  1. Prior Restraint

    NMU         NORTH CAROLINA         Prior Restraints         Jul 2, 2002    

Judge issues restraining order on student records stories

  • A North Carolina judge temporarily ordered an alternative weekly paper in Charlotte to stop disseminating student records in a story which alleged a local charter school allowed failing students to graduate.

A federal judge in North Carolina has issued a temporary restraining order barring Creative Loafing, an alternative weekly in Charlotte, from publishing information provided by former teachers and employees at a local high school.

In its June 19 issue, Creative Loafing published an article titled “Automatic Diplomas,” which alleged that at least eight students out of the graduating class of 25 at Crossroads Charter High School did not meet the minimum standards for graduation, but were still allowed to graduate. Creative Loafing had obtained copies of students’ tests and grades from former Crossroads teachers who said that students’ grades had been inflated or changed to allow them to pass.

On June 21, District Court Judge Yvonne Mims Evans in Mecklenburg County issued a restraining order enjoining the paper and the teachers from disclosing and disseminating any of the student records from Crossroads. In her order, Evans wrote that federal and state law prohibits the unauthorized disclosure and dissemination of the student records.

While Creative Loafing referred to information obtained in the records in its story, it did not disclose the names of any of the students or mention any specific class grades in the story.

At a July 1 hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction, James Conrad, Crossroad’s attorney, said they wanted the court to prevent the paper from using the students’ names in any future stories and force it to turn over the documents. Conrad told Creative Loafing that the information the former teachers provided to the paper was false and was provided solely to embarrass the school.

John Hasty, attorney for Creative Loafing, argued that the judge’s order was an unconstitutional prior restraint.

A ruling by Evans is expected by the end of the week.

(Crossroads Charter High School vs. CL Charlotte Inc.; Media counsel: John Hasty) JLW

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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