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Nashville appeals to the state Supreme Court to stop sharing student contact information with state-run district

Denver North High School

Nashville school leaders have appealed to Tennessee’s highest court to keep from sharing student information with state-run charter schools.

Lawyers for Metro Nashville Public Schools appealed their case to the state Supreme Court on Friday. The court will now have to decide if they want to take up the case, but there’s no timeline on that, said Lora Fox, Nashville’s lawyer in the case.

Any ruling would also apply to Shelby County Schools in Memphis, where district leaders also defied the state’s order to release student information.

The case between Nashville and the state touches on issues of student privacy, school choice, and competition for students in Tennessee’s two largest districts, home to most of the state’s charter schools.

Related: What Memphis parents should know about how schools share student information

The dispute dates back to 2017. LEAD Public Schools, a charter organization that operates two schools in the state-run Achievement School District, requested student information including names, ages, addresses, and phone numbers from Nashville school officials.

A state law passed that year required local districts to share that information with charters in their district within 30 days after it was requested. Nashville argued that the state-run district is a separate district and therefore the law shouldn’t apply. Plus, federal guidelines on student privacy allow for districts to have discretion on who can receive student contact information and why.

Related: How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

State officials argued the Achievement School District is authorized to operate schools in the local district and should be able to receive the information. The state also contended that student privacy was protected because state law prohibits charter schools from sharing that information with anyone else.

When the Nashville district did not comply, the state sued in chancery court, saying the district was not performing its duties. The attorney general supported the state’s argument, and the chancery court judge ruled in favor of the state.

State appeals court Judge Andy Bennett confirmed the ruling in February, saying Nashville school leaders had a “clear” duty to comply with the charter operator’s request based on state law.

Thousands of Memphis parents opted out of sharing their students’ contact information after Shelby County Schools highlighted the option on student registration forms, but it was still a small fraction of the more than 100,000 students in Tennessee’s largest district.

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