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Court finds disciplinary records cannot be disclosed by schools

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         OHIO         Freedom of Information         Mar 23, 2000    

Court finds disciplinary records cannot be disclosed by schools

  • A federal judge ruled against the organization attempting to receive student disciplinary records at two Ohio universities.

A federal District Court judge in Columbus on March 21 permanently enjoined two state universities from releasing student disciplinary records that contain personally identifiable information. The decision directly contradicts a 1997 ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court which ordered the records released under the state’s open records law.

In the federal decision Judge George Smith ordered Miami University of Ohio and Ohio State University to stop providing the records to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle requested the records after the state high court ordered release of the Miami University records to Jennifer Markiewicz, who requested them in 1995 when she was editor of that school’s student newspaper. The U.S. Department of Education sued the schools to keep them from complying with the state court’s rule. When they did not contest the suit, The Chronicle intervened.

Agreeing with the federal agency, Smith said disciplinary records are protected by the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act because they are “educational” records. They are educational records because they concern a student, he said.

Although the act has been interpreted in the past as allowing the federal government to cut off funds to any school which releases personally identifiable information in educational records, Smith said that by authorizing the agency to “take any other action authorized by law,” Congress intended to give broad powers of enforcement of the law’s provisions.

Smith recognized a strong interest in learning about crimes that occur on campus but he noted that federal legislation now requires campuses to keep and make public statistics on campus crime.

After the Ohio Supreme Court found that disciplinary records were not “educational,” and were subject to the state’s open records law, Miami University asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn that decision, but it declined the case.

(The Miami University v. The Chronicle of Higher Education; Media Counsel: Marc Mezibov, Cincinnati)

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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