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Buffalo school district tries to block release of student names and admissions scores

Attorneys for Buffalo Public Schools and the Elmwood Franklin School have moved to prevent the court-ordered release of names and admissions scores for hundreds – maybe thousands – of students at City Honors and Hutchinson Central Technical High School over the past five years. They're being sought as evidence in a lawsuit between a former teacher and the private North Buffalo school.

The lawyers filed papers in federal court Wednesday asking U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy to reconsider his order and hold a conference with attorneys in hopes of resolving the matter.

The district and school contend the student information is irrelevant to the discrimination case before the court and protected under the federal Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act.

“The federal and state law rationale behind these restrictions is simple to surmise: What parent would want their child’s test scores, report cards and academic history available to the masses?” school district attorneys wrote in court papers. “In 2018, the possibilities of bullying, trolling, internet attacks and general misuse of this information abounds.”

The release would also require the district to notify thousands of students and their guardians so they have an opportunity to seek a protective order from the court – causing a significant delay in the case, said Brendan P. Kelleher, an attorney for Elmwood Franklin.

Shellonnee B. Chinn, a former kindergarten teacher at Elmwood Franklin, has filed a discrimination suit against the school and wants the admission scores of her former students to help prove she’s an effective educator.

But she also wants the names and scores of everyone else accepted to City Honors and Hutch Tech since 2013 as a comparison.

Judge's order over City Honors, Hutch-Tech records raises privacy questions

The school district, believing it would be dismissed from the case, ignored her requests. But the judge in a ruling last week said that belief didn’t relieve the district of its obligation to respond to the plaintiff’s demands for evidence in preparation for trial.

McCarthy ordered the district to “fully comply (without objection) with the document demands.”

Chinn, meanwhile, held a press conference Thursday morning urging the district to turn over the student data.

She doesn’t believe the latest maneuvering by the district and Elmwood Franklin will have any bearing on the court’s decision.

“When the judge issued the order he said ‘without objections,’” said Chinn, who is representing herself in the case. “That’s how I see it.”

She said the district has to comply by Aug. 10.

“I’d work with them for the documents,” Chinn said. “I know that that’s a great undertaking, but it’s the federal court.”

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