Broward County School Board Asks Judge to Hold Sun Sentinel in Contempt for Publishing Confidential Info on Shooter
“The School Board alleges the newspaper intentionally published information it knew a judge had ordered to be redacted.”
The Broward County School Board is not happy.
They’re claiming the Sun Sentinel published information it knew was meant to remain confidential in order to protect the privacy rights of shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz.
The report published by the Sentinel Friday alleges the Broward County School District failed to provide the special education accommodations Cruz requested and may have misstated his therapeutic educational options.
Fuzzy Slippers covered the Sentinel’s initial report extensively here.
Publication of alleged district missteps led the Broward County School District to ask a judge to hold the Sentinel in contempt.
The Broward County School Board on Monday asked a judge to hold the South Florida Sun Sentinel and two of its reporters in contempt of court over the publication of a report about the Parkland shooter’s years within the school system.
The School Board alleges the newspaper intentionally published information it knew a judge had ordered to be redacted.
After a judge’s order, the school district publicly released the report Friday with nearly two-thirds of its content blacked out to protect 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz’s privacy rights. But the district used a method that failed: Anyone could copy and paste the blacked-out report into a Word document to make all the text visible.
Sun Sentinel reporters Brittany Wallman and Paula McMahon, acting on a Facebook tip from a reader at 7:30 p.m., discovered on deadline the concealed text could be viewed. The reporters quickly rewrote the story reflecting the entire report, providing the first detailed account about the school shooter’s years in the school system, what the district knew about him and what mistakes were made.
The court filing alleges the Sun Sentinel knew what information was supposed to remain confidential because it had attended court hearings about the release of the report and agreed that certain material could not legally be disclosed.
“They opted to report, publicly, information that this court had ordered to be redacted despite agreeing, on the record, that this information was protected by both Florida and federal law,” said the pleading, filed at 4:46 p.m. in Broward Circuit Court.
Sun Sentinel Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson said the events surrounding the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High, which left 17 dead on Feb. 14, are of “the utmost importance to our community” and it is the paper’s duty to provide that information to its readers.
The redactions removed specifics of the killer’s history in the school system — and in the process removed details of mistakes the district made in handling him.
“After consulting attorneys about the situation, and realizing the school district had made the full report public, we published a second story that gave more context to the report’s findings,” Anderson said.
The school board, in its filing, alleges that “regardless of how they obtained the unredacted version of the report” the Sun Sentinel and its reporters knew there were court orders in place to ensure that certain information was not publicly disclosed.
Lawyer Tom Julin, an attorney not involved in the case, but who has represented the Miami Herald believes Broward County has no case, according to the Sentinel.
“The Sun Sentinel is entitled to publish the information that it lawfully obtained even if that information should have been redacted from the document that was released.
“It looks like the School Board just made a mistake and is trying to deal with its own mistake by asking that the Sun Sentinel be held in contempt,” he said. “But the School Board has absolutely no basis to make that request.”
School district officials couldn’t be reached for comment Monday evening despite emailed requests.
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