Take It to the Feds | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Take It to the Feds

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Leflore County Chancery Judge Jon Barnwell ruled Friday that he would not order the Greenwood Public School District to release additional security camera footage of an encounter between Greenwood High School student James Marshall and Greenwood police officer Casey Wiggins. Marshall has filed a $2 million federal civil suit against Wiggins, the school district, Superintendent Leslie Daniels, Police Chief Henry Harries and the city of Greenwood alleging that Wiggins violated Marshall's rights and that the school was negligent. Two videos Barnwell ordered the school to release on Jan. 5 show Wiggins pointing his firearm at Marshall and putting him in a chokehold in a hall crowded with students.

This month, Marshall attorney Carlos Moore and the Jackson Free Press requested that the school release the rest of the videos under the Mississippi Public Records Act.

In a motion filed Feb. 16, Greenwood schools argued that it was caught between two laws, namely the Public Records Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA is a federal law that requires schools to safeguard students' privacy, forbidding them to release students' "education records" without the written consent of their parents. The school district asked Barnwell to decide whether the video must be released, arguing that the district exposed itself to liability whether it released the video or not, although it had already released video showing many students' faces.

Barnwell declined to rule on whether the videos are public record, essentially punting the issue to federal court. "I defer all issues of discovery, which is what this is all about, to the federal court," Barnwell told The Greenwood Commonwealth.

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