published Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Court: TSSAA is subject to open records laws

NASHVILLE — A state appeals court has ruled that the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, the body that regulates high school sports, is subject to the Tennessee Public Records Act.

The decision stems from a lawsuit filed after the TSSAA refused to turn over records to the now-defunct Nashville City Paper. The paper was seeking records related to the investigation of recruiting violations at the elite Nashville private school Montgomery Bell Academy.

The decision is an important one, said Steve Cavendish, former editor of the City Paper, who is now editor of the Nashville Scene and the Nashville Post.

"This affects every newspaper in the state and it affects every parent who has a kid playing high school athletics," Cavendish said. He said the organization governs every aspect of a student's ability to play sports and there are all sorts of implications of being able to see its records, including issues related to safety and concussion regulations.

This week the Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's finding that even though the TSSAA is a private nonprofit corporation, it is the functional equivalent of a state agency and subject to the open records laws.

It's not clear whether the TSSAA will appeal the decision to the Tennessee Supreme Court. An attorney for the organization did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The former City Paper was owned by SouthComm Inc., which owns the Nashville Scene and the Nashville Post. SouthComm continued to fight the legal batter after the City Paper stopped publishing.

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