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Judge lifts prior restraint order over student records stories

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    NMU         NORTH CAROLINA         Prior Restraints         Jul 9, 2002    

Judge lifts prior restraint order over student records stories

  • A North Carolina judge lifted a temporary restraining that had barred an alternative weekly paper in Charlotte from publishing student records, describing it as an unconstitutional prior restraint.

A district court judge in North Carolina lifted a temporary restraining order on July 3 that had barred Creative Loafing, an alternative weekly in Charlotte, from publishing student records provided by former teachers and employees at a local high school.

District Court Judge Avril Sisk in Mecklenburg County lifted the temporary restraining order issued by District Court Judge Yvonne M. Evans on June 21, calling it an unconstitutional prior restraint.

The order was issued after Creative Loafing published an article alleging 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. 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.

Sisk also ruled that Creative Loafing had obtained the student records lawfully and were permitted to retain them. She did not address the issue of whether the paper would be violating the student’s privacy rights if they decided to print the students’ names. However, Risk said it was unlawful to restrain the paper prior to printing the students’ names because it might be illegal.

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

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© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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