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Broward County School Board Asks Judge to Hold Sun Sentinel in Contempt for Publishing Confidential Info on Shooter

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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Misplaced priorities.
I doubt they are as worried about the killers info as they are about their incompetence becoming public knowledge.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to NGAREADER. | August 7, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    A common tread in young men going berserk and killing people, is school systems allowing them to be bullied and otherwise misused. The only thing the school district is worried about is avoiding being held accountable. I don’t know if this young man is salvagable, probably not now. But if he is salvageable, a trust should be setup to sue the school district for damages. It should cost them so much money that all of the upper administration is fired. I have never been a big fan of litigation, but this case is truly horrible.

Better headline: “Broward County School Board asks judge to punish reporters for BCSB incompetence.”

As is often the case with theses stories, they are SOOOOO lucky I’m not the judge!

    Tom Servo in reply to irv. | August 7, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    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.”

    ROFL! Incompetence in every area!!!

    The paper was not a party to that court order, and they are not bound by it. Also, Pentagon Papers precedent.

      Milhouse in reply to Tom Servo. | August 8, 2018 at 2:39 am

      Exactly. Also see Boehner v McDermott; McDermott and the Martins broke the law and were punished, but the newspapers to whom McDermott leaked the story were completely within their rights to publish it.

Waiting for the cnn townhall. Aaaaannny day now. Yep, lookin’ at the watch.
I know cnn is going to thoroughly cover this and admit to their biased and fake news townhall they held after the shooting.
Yep, getting the snacks ready. Checking the tv guide for times….

    redc1c4 in reply to 4fun. | August 7, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    and holding your breath, right?

    hope you stocked up on unicorn chow… those buggers can eat their weight!

i’m sure it was just a mistake that evidence of their mistakes got “redacted” along with the student’s info…


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.

Does anybody issue contempt citations in response to incompetence ?

    artichoke in reply to Neo. | August 8, 2018 at 7:37 am

    I would guess negligence would be enough for contempt. If you’re under a court order, you should have a duty to implement it with normal competence.

RSConsulting | August 8, 2018 at 1:16 am

Similar to the (cough cough) “birth certificate” posted on for our previous Dear Leader. I disassembled the layered construct myself in Adobe Acrobat. Had it been a scan of a single piece of paper, it would have been a flat/single layer file.

Similarly, the school board “blacked out” what it wanted redacted, but did not flatten and lock the file. If there wasn’t so much THEY WANTED COVERED UP (aside from the court ordered privacy redactions), they would have taken a little more time to make sure the file was prepared properly before releasing it. THEY (the school board) are the ones in contempt for disregarding the judges order.

OTOH – Broward SA MikeSatz, hungry for a showcase death penalty trial, would not take the guilty plea to all charges offered right out of the gate (in return for a gazzillion years in gen-pop, where it would turn into the death penalty anyways). With FL’s new rule regarding UNANIMOUS JURY for a DP sentence, the decades of appeals for (the sure to occur) procedural errors, endless appeals of processes during the trial, endless appeals post-sentencing (including the mandatory ones) – the surviving victims will be grandparents before any (potential) justice is actually served.

Black Helicopter/Foil Hat Conspiracy Theories (including MK-Ultra) aside: the kid did it, he copped to it, he was aware and cognizant it was morally/legally wrong to do it, he planned it in advance, and executed it with frightening precision.

Take the plea, give him 150+ years with possibility of parole in 75 – and move on.

BTW – Scott Israel IS STILL SHERIFF. Apparently Scott is more interested in capturing a desk in D.C., than serving his constituents in Broward (of which I am one). My buddies on BSO are pissed beyond words. Sadly, he won’t get sh!t for votes here – being heavily dem as we are (not ME, but Broward).


    Milhouse in reply to RSConsulting. | August 8, 2018 at 2:45 am

    Similar to the (cough cough) “birth certificate” posted on for our previous Dear Leader. I disassembled the layered construct myself in Adobe Acrobat. Had it been a scan of a single piece of paper, it would have been a flat/single layer file.

    No, it would not have been. It is completely normal and common for OCR scanning software to deconstruct a document into layers, in their attempt to separate text from background.

      artichoke in reply to Milhouse. | August 8, 2018 at 7:41 am

      This was tested. Yeah but not those layers just like that.

        RSConsulting in reply to artichoke. | August 8, 2018 at 9:10 am

        I didn’t OCR the BC – I simply opened the document in Illustrator. I didn’t de-construct it, it already was.

        Moot point, and I wasn’t trying to go into an off-topic diversion here – just pointing out that even the highest office in the land, can produce a f’d up document. I dismissed the “birther issue” after he was elected, because it was a moot point at that time. We may NEVER REPAIR the damage done to this nation (culture and society) during those 8 years – but I’m hopeful the rate of decline has been slowed somewhat.


          Milhouse in reply to RSConsulting. | August 8, 2018 at 10:50 am

          You moron. You “simply opened the document”. What, the piece of paper?! No, you opened a scanned copy of the document. And as I just pointed out to you, it is normal for OCR scanning software to break documents up into layers.

          paracelsus in reply to RSConsulting. | August 8, 2018 at 3:29 pm

          @ Mlhouse
          People would read your comments more closely if you didn’t go around
          calling other commenters “MORONS”
          You usually have something of importance to say; please say it politely.

          Milhouse in reply to RSConsulting. | August 9, 2018 at 2:24 am

          Tell me how it is not moronic to claim that an artifact in a PDF could not be the result of scanning because the speaker didn’t scan it but merely opened it.

          paracelsus in reply to RSConsulting. | August 9, 2018 at 2:00 pm

          @ Milhouse
          As a young child in the ’40s, one of the courtesies my parents taught me was not to stare at the deformed thereby embarrassing them.
          The same holds true calling a moron a moron, should you think they are.
          If you feel that someone has said (or written) something moronic, I don’t think that you, obviously a well-educated person, has to “scream ‘MORON'” thereby alerting the world to your opinion.
          There are other means/words to express this more politely.
          The end result will be that more people will more closely peruse your well-considered opinions, as opposed to skipping and ignoring them thinking to themselves “Oh, here’s Milhouse, ranting again and taking up valuable commenting space,” and automatically down-voting whatever you have to say.

How convenient. Or not. Third parties are not subject to the same rules of confidentiality.

The Sun Sentinel has featured a front page story about this tragic and preventable horror each day for the last six months. Many of these stories are geared toward promoting the Sun Sentinels anti-gun agenda.

As a subscriber, I am thinking of cancelling my subscription.

    artichoke in reply to dystopia. | August 8, 2018 at 7:43 am

    If anything good is to come of this breach of privacy by the school and the newspaper, it’s that the anti-gun agenda hits a speed bump.

Can the newspaper just claim the blacked out parts were just like ‘spoiler text’ on web pages that you have to select with a cursor to see what text is hidden so you don’t accidentally see something that will ruin the subsequent pleasure of reading a book or watching a movie?

Maybe this is a dumb question: Why didn’t they release the information as a PDF? Wouldn’t that prevent manipulation?

    RSConsulting in reply to tarheelkate. | August 8, 2018 at 9:05 am

    They did. They did the redactions by using black blocks, on an OCR Reader PDF document – and never flattened or locked the file afterwards. OR – did the redactions using black background over black text in Word and saving as a PDF.

    They COULD HAVE done the blackout, then PRINTED AND SCANNED to document to PDF and it would have been unreadable.

    Regardless of the method used, the school board was negligent in it’s redactions – allowing the text to be viewed by others. The press (I believe) had already done an FOIA motion, and was denied on a privacy basis.

    Either way – the cat is out of the bag, and the document proved could have either provided HELP to Cruz, or had him sanctioned legally – either of which MIGHT HAVE PREVENTED HIM from taking a gun that he LEGALLY OWNED (which he might not have, had BSO done their job, and/or the School Board was not “diverting” criminal acts of students under the “Promise Program” guidelines), and shooting up those he perceived to be responsible for his misery.

    Not giving Cruz a justification for his actions. This was not a “random act”. This was something that could have been prevented – had the school board and LEO been doing their job, instead of being SJW’s and sweeping it under the rug. The additional Federal Funding received under the Obama/Holder program, was essentially payment for the lives of those killed.


    MarkSmith in reply to tarheelkate. | August 8, 2018 at 9:16 am

    I am guessing it actually was delivered as a pdf. The layers of code behind it allow the original text to be seen when cut and pasted in a word document. There are security features that you can add to prevent copying. Best bet would have been to print it and scan it back in as a pdf or picture file (jpg or gif).

    In true theory of the !st Amendment, once anything become public because of the parties action, it should be allowed to be exposed in full. IMO, HIPPA laws and confidential should be thrown out in the spirit of the 1st.

    If you look at the dirt that was flying when the founding fathers were just getting things started, it was the wild west in disinformation campaigns. The founders understood the free flow of information (even if wrong or hurtful) was important to protecting the truth.

    It is a tough situation to protect the privacy of an individual but the whole intent of free speech was to get at protecting the individual from the oppressive government. In this case the government is trying to protect itself which goes against the 1st.

    This Russian Collusion is going to be a huge test case for the 1st Amendment. Trump can flip the switch to expose everything based on the concept behind the 1st – government covering up their wrong doing. It is just a matter of time before the forward thinking founders will be validated again for their brilliant document.

    tarheelkate in reply to tarheelkate. | August 8, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    Thanks for the replies. I have naively assumed that sending PDFs instead of a Word or Excel document provided protection. If I’m really concerned, I’ll scan a printed copy as a PDF.

This is simply another gigantic screw-up by the BCSB which they are trying to lat off on another party to cover their own a**es. There were valid privacy concerns with regard to Cruz’s school background. But, the BCSB also had concerns over its own handling of Cruz’s educational needs. The redacting was therefor done for two reasons, only one of them having to do with Cruz’s interests. But, the method used to accomplish the “redaction” was flawed and could be undone, within the released document, using simple, generally available means. It was the electronic equivalent of covering portions of the document’s text with opaque Scotch tape. Now, in an effort to 1) protect itself from responsibility for privacy rights violations, with regard to Cruz and 2) stop the further dissemination of unflattering information concerning its own actions with regard to Cruz, pre-shooting, it seeks to have a media organization held in contempt of court.

Make no mistake about the responsibility for the MSDHS shootings. Though the Shriff’s Office may have missed opportunities to complicate Cruz’s ability to carry out the shooting, the entire responsibility for it rests with the BCSB and Cruz. Cruz was the one who carried out the attack and injured and killed the people at the school. But, the BCSB was directly responsible for the lack of security there. This year, the BCSB is desperately trying to pass a bond issue to increase security at schools, including hiring armed guards. Unfortunately, they have tied a teacher raise into this issue. And, they have yet to utilize the $104 million dollars that they received in the 2014 bond issue, which was directly earmarked for school security. [] One wonders exactly what the district is spending some $2.4 billion dollars a year on.

“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.”

“privacy rights of shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz??” The smell of desperation is rife on this one.

If you shoot up a school and mass murder 17 people, you’ve pretty much lost your privacy concern facts leading up to the crime. Whether a newspaper or court room, the facts will become public.

WTF is wrong with Broward County?

I am glad they asked the judge to help cover up the failure to follow the law before election day.

I hope the people of Broward County vote out all those running for reelection this month!

If the judge allows this cover up, then he should removed from the bench for aiding in corruption!

So it would seem that they handled this document release with their usual level of confidence.

I don’t see the difference in this and them having accidently released an unredacted copy to the paper. If they asked for the unredacted copy back they would be told to go pound sand as well.