The Montclair Board of Education defended its decision to issue subpoenas to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger Thursday by saying the intent was not to imply guilt or diminish the person's First Amendment rights.
Earlier in the day, the school board faced an Essex County Superior Court Judge who temporarily quashed subpoenas issued by the board to Google and the hyperlocal website BaristaKids. The subpoenas, part of an investigation into a security breach involving student assessments, sought the name and contact information of "Assessmentgate," the pseudonym of an online poster who has been critical of the school board and the school district's administration.
"Assessmentgate" was represented in court by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which claimed the board of education did not have the authority to seek their client's identity and that doing so interfered with their client's freedom of speech.
Issuing subpoenas is "standard legal practice" in an investigation the school board said. "The subpoenas represent a reasonable expectation that the person/entity has information that may be relevant to determining how the assessments were made public."
In his order Thursday, Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Vena asked both sides to return to court on Jan. 9 to make their cases.
"We believe they should come forward with sufficient evidence justifying the need for the information," Jeanne LoCicero, an attorney for the ACLU-NJ, said.
- Judge Blocks School Board Subpoena Seeking Identity of Anonymous Blogger
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