In a county where the recycling movement is gaining steam, Gaston County schools have buried more than 4 million pieces of recyclable paper.

State law gives school officials no choice. The state says the papers can't be recycled because it might violate students' right to privacy.The papers that the schools are tossing are student records. Recycling could mean someone might see psychological or academic evaluations that are closely guarded under the state's confidentiality laws.

The rule came to light last week when the media services supervisor of Gaston County schools, Melinda Ratchford, made a routine request to approve disposal of outdated student records that have been transferred to microfilm.

Each student's cumulative record is 20 to 50 pages long. Since the schools started microfilming, about 4,400,000 papers have been buried at the overburdened county landfill.

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