Free Speech by Techdirt was written by Tim Cushing
August 14, 2018
Last week, the Broward County School Board went after a Florida newspaper, claiming it should be held in contempt of court for publishing information the school district didn’t properly redact. The Sun Sentinel obtained a copy of the Parkland school shooter’s educational records as the result of a public records suit. Certain information was redacted — or at least was supposed to be — to comply with state and federal privacy laws.
What was delivered to the Sun Sentinel by the district had black redaction bars covering two-thirds of the document. Unfortunately, the redactions were merely cosmetic. Anyone with a copy of the PDF could select the “redacted” text in the PDF and paste it into a text editor to see what was supposed to have been withheld. The school board screwed up, making it possibly liable for privacy law violations, but it went to court claiming it was all the Sun Sentinel’s fault anyone’s privacy got violated.
The Sun Sentinel has now responded — both with an editorial middle finger and a filing in court. (h/t Brittany Wallman) If everything goes the Sun Sentinel’s way, not only will it not face contempt charges (there’s been no ruling on the motion, so it appears the judge doesn’t believe closing barn doors post-livestock exodus qualifies as an emergency), but might collect some cash from the school district for trying to silence the paper.
From the motion [PDF]:
In a rush to deflect from its own negligence in publicly disclosing the CEN (Collaborative Educational Network) report at issue in a wholly unsecured format, the School Board now seeks to have this Court find the Sun Sentinel in contempt for exercising their First Amendment rights to truthfully report on a matter of the highest public concern: the exact nature of the special educational services the School District provided (or notably failed to provide) to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (“MSD”) shooter Nikolas Cruz—who now stands charged with multiple counts of capital murder. On their face, neither the civil court’s operative July 26, 2018 order (the “Civil Order”)—requiring the School District to disclose a redacted version of the CEN report—nor the criminal court’s August 3, 2018 order (the “Criminal Order”) in any way limited the Sun Sentinel’s ability to publish the report’s contents. Indeed, to have done so would have constituted an unconstitutional prior restraint.