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Q. Students, discussions on individual students

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  • Alabama

    We know of no authority under state law to close an otherwise open meeting simply because the meeting deals with the identity of or information about individual students. Nonetheless, certain student information is confidential under the Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g (1974); therefore, public officials will likely avoid discussion in open meeting that would breach the confidentiality of FERPA material, especially since violation of FERPA can result in loss of federal education funds. See also Kendrick v. Advertiser Co., 213 So. 3d 573 (Ala. 2016) (restricting public records request for athletic financial aid information on FERPA grounds)

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  • Alaska

    While the Open Meetings Act itself does not address discussions concerning individual students, to the extent that these discussions would tend to prejudice the reputation or character of the student, they would be a permissible topic for an executive session, subject to the rights of the part of the person being discussed to notification and opportunity to require a public session. There are many student records that are legally required to be maintained confidential, in particular those covered by the federal "Buckley Amendment," or Family Educational Privacy Act of 1972. See 20 U.S.C. §  1232g. Matters involving consideration of government records that by law are not subject to public disclosure are properly considered in an executive session. So, for example, in an otherwise public hearing concerning discipline of a school teacher, a claim arising out of or relating to that teacher's alleged improper handling of an IEP plan for an individual student would presumably be conducted in a closed session, and with a separate sealed record. A school district or school district employee with information that a student or employee of the district has acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) must keep the information confidential except from public health officials and certain district personnel on a need-to-know basis. 4 AAC 6.150.

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  • Arizona

    Curriculum discussions must be done in open meeting.  Ariz. Att’y Gen. Op. No. I81-060.

    See also Section II.B.1, supra.

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  • Arkansas

    A school board may meet in executive session in student expulsion cases if requested by the parent or guardian of the student. Though the board may hear testimony and deliberate in private, it must reconvene in public to vote. Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-507(d)(2). See Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. Nos. 96-009, 87-478. This statute provides for an executive session only in the case of expulsion hearings, and a school board must meet in public when considering an appeal from a student who has been suspended. Troutt Brothers Inc. v. Valley View School Dist., CIV-2000-343(F) (Craighead County Cir. Ct., July 2, 2000). An executive session is not allowed simply because the school board will consider educational records that are exempt from disclosure under Section 25-19-105(b)(2) of the FOIA. Ark. Att’y Gen. No. 97-298. Moreover, because the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1232g, neither qualifies as an exemption nor supersedes the FOIA under the Supremacy Clause, it does not permit a school board to hold a closed meeting to discuss the records of a particular student or former student. Id.

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  • California

    Community Colleges, State Universities and the Regents of the University of California: The meetings of the governing boards of state universities and the Regents of the University of California are subject to the Bagley-Keene Act and must be open to the public. Cal. Educ. Code §§ 89920, 92030. Tafoya v. Hastings College of the Law, 191 Cal. App. 3d 437, 445, 236 Cal. Rptr. 395 (1987). The meetings of the governing boards of community colleges are subject to the Brown Act.  Cal. Educ. Code § 71022. However, meetings of bodies that advise the Regents or exercise authority delegated to them by the Regents are not subject to the Act. Cal. Educ. Code § 92030; see Tafoya, supra.; see also 66 Ops. Cal. Att'y Gen. 458 (1983). For instance, meetings of the faculty and the UC Academic Senate may be closed. See Tafoya, supra.

    School Districts and County Boards of Education: The meetings of school districts, county boards of education, and school boards are subject to the Brown Act. Cal. Educ. Code § 71022; Baca v. Moreno Valley Unified Sch. Dist., 936 F.Supp. 719 (C.D. Cal., 1996); 66 Ops. Cal. Att'y Gen. 252 (1983). A governing board of a school district may hold a closed session to consider the suspension of, disciplinary action against, or any other action against a student, if a public hearing would lead to the disclosure of "directory information" on that student, in violation of Education Code Section 49073. Cal. Educ. Code § 35146. However, this rule does not apply if the governing board is considering expulsion of a student. Cal. Educ. Code § 35146.

    ("Directory information" consists of a "student's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received, and the most recent previous public or private school attended by the student." Cal. Educ. Code § 49061.)

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  • Colorado

    Colleges and Universities. Closed. Governing boards of institutions of higher education may vote to hold executive sessions to review actions, investigations, charges, complaints, or reports concerning individual students, where public disclosure could adversely affect the persons involved, unless the student has specifically consented to or requested disclosure. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-6-402(3)(b).

    Elementary and High Schools. Closed. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-6-402(4)(h) authorizes executive sessions to consider actions, investigations, reports, charges, and complaints against any elementary or high school student. See also Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-32-108(5) (boards of education may meet in executive session).

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  • Connecticut

    There are no specific provisions or exemptions in FOIA on this issue. There are also no reported court decisions on this issue.

    An executive session may be allowed if an open session would result in the disclosure of exempt records. Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-200(6)(E). See Records Outline at II.A.2 and IV.

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  • Delaware

    Discussions of individual students are closed, unless the student requests that the meeting be open. 29 Del. C. § 10004(b)(7), (9).

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  • District of Columbia

    Not specifically addressed.

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  • Georgia

    The Act does not exempt meetings regarding students. In fact, the Georgia Supreme Court held that even when student committees handle student disciplinary matters the meetings cannot be closed. Red & Black Publ’gCo. v. Bd. of Regents, 262 Ga. 848, 854, 427 S.E.2d 257 (1993) (Board of Regents "cannot hide behind meeting at which official action is taken on their behalf, and for which they are responsible, by contending that a group of students, none of whom are members of the [Board] is taking that action").

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  • Hawaii

    The statutes do not specifically address meetings of or concerning students.

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  • Idaho

    An executive session may be held to consider the evaluation, dismissal or disciplining of a public school student. Idaho Code § 74-206(1)(b).

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  • Illinois

    A meeting may be closed to hear student disciplinary cases or to discuss matters relating to the placement of individual students in special education programs and on other matters relating to individual students. See 5 ILCS 120/2(c)) (9) and (10).

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  • Indiana

    Executive sessions are permitted to discuss, before a determination, an individual’s status as a student, and to discuss before any placement decision a student’s abilities, past performance, behavior and needs. Ind. Code §§ 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(6)(B), (b)(8).

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  • Iowa

    Confidential: a. when concerning suspension or expulsion, Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(e); b. to the extent necessary to receive federal funds, Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(a); 20 U.S.C. §1232g.

    In a hearing regarding appeal of student suspension, student right to request open session under § 21.5(1)(e) is paramount, regardless of the fact that teacher's aide who was disciplined for the same incident requested closed session under § 21.5(1)(i). Schumacher v. Lisbon Sch. Bd., 582 N.W.2d 183, 185-86 (Iowa 1998).

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  • Kansas

    This meeting may be closed to the public unless requested by the student to be made open. K.S.A. 75-4319(b)(5).

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  • Kentucky

    May be closed if discussion may lead to discipline or dismissal of student. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.810(1)(f).

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  • Louisiana

    May be closed unless student requests that meeting be open. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42:17(A)(7).

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  • Maine

    Discussion of individual students is generally confidential because such discussion almost invariably involves information in non-public records.  1 M.R.S.A. § 405(6)(F). The Act permits boards to meet in executive session to discuss or consider the suspension or expulsion of a public school student.   1 M.R.S.A. § 405(6)(B).

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  • Maryland

    Meetings to prepare, administer or grade scholastic, licensing or qualifying examinations may be closed. § 3-305(b)(11).

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  • Massachusetts

    Discussions of individual students can probably be held in executive session under general privacy principles. See G.L. c. 214, § 1B. See also strict restrictions on access to student records. G.L. c. 71, § 34D. 603 23.07(4).

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  • Michigan

    A public body may meet in a closed session to consider the dismissal, suspension, or disciplining of a student under two conditions: if the public body is part of the school district or institution which the student is attending, and if the student's parent or guardian requests a closed hearing. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.268(b).

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  • Montana

    Generally private.

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  • Nebraska

    No specific exemption. However, the provision allowing a closed session for prevention of needless injury to the reputation of an individual might apply. See Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-1410(1).

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  • Nevada

    May be closed under general provision allowing closed meeting to consider character or alleged misconduct. In addition, school board of trustee hearings concerning suspension or expulsion of students may be closed. NRS 392.467(3).

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  • New Hampshire

    There is no case law on this issue. See RSA 91-A:5,VII (exempting "unique pupil identification information collected in accordance with RSA 193-E:5").

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  • New Jersey

    Discussions regarding individual students and student records may be held in closed session. N.J.S.A. 10:4-12(b)(3).

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  • New Mexico

    The discussion of personally identifiable information about any individual student may be in a closed meeting unless a student's parent or guardian requests otherwise.  NMSA 1978 § 10-15-1(H)(4).

    Immediately, although no special statute of limitations applies to the Open Meetings Act.

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  • North Carolina

    The Open Meetings Law does not include any provision relating to students, though the “catch-all” exemption would permit protection of student records. G.S. § 143-318.11(a)(1),

    The question of whether student disciplinary proceedings are public was litigated in DTH Pub. Corp. v. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 128 N.C. App. 534, 496 S.E.2d 8, (1998). The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, sued the Undergraduate Court for access to the Court’s proceedings and records. The University defended on the basis that the Court is not a public body within the meaning of the Open Meetings Law and that the records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1232g. The trial court found that the Undergraduate Court was a public body subject to the Open Meetings Law but that it was entitled to conduct its inquiries in closed session pursuant to FERPA. The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s findings in all respects. Noting the 1994 changes to the definition of public body, the Court of Appeals had little trouble finding the Undergraduate Court subject to the Open Meetings Law. “Here, the parties’ stipulations demonstrate that the Student Body President and the Student Congress derive their authority to appoint and confirm Undergraduate Court members from the Chancellor, who in turn derives his authority on this matter from the UNC-CH Board of Trustees. The Chancellor and the UNC-CH Board of Trustees derive their authority from the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina (UNC) which, in turn, derives its authority from N.C. Gen.Stat. § § 116-11(2) (1994) and Article IX, Section 8 of our North Carolina Constitution. Thus, the Undergraduate Court members are clearly appointed and confirmed by those who are authorized to do so under the laws of this State and pursuant to the policies and regulations of UNC-CH and UNC.” Id. at 11. However, the court also found that the potential withdrawal of federal funds was sufficient to establish a federal “requirement” that schools not disclose student records and that, therefore, closed sessions were justified to maintain the confidentiality of students brought before the court. Id. at 12-13.

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  • North Dakota

    Generally closed under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which is a specific exception to the open records law.

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  • Ohio

    All discussions about students must be held in open session, except discussion of a charge or complaint against a student in a public educational institution. Ohio Rev. Code §§ 121.22(G)(1) and (B)(3)(a).

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  • Oklahoma

    Governing boards of state operated institutions of higher education may not hold executive sessions to hear evidence and discuss student disciplinary matters which may come before it. 1981 OK AG 135.

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  • Oregon

    Student discipline may be the subject of an executive session under ORS 192.660(4) from which the media may be excluded.

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  • Pennsylvania

    Discussion of individual students is generally closed; boards of state-owned or related colleges must meet in executive session to discuss academic standing or admission. 65 Pa.C.S.A. § 708(a)(6). Executive sessions may also be held to avoid disclosure of information privileged or protected by law; this might also include discussions of individual students, particularly when grades or disciplinary proceedings are involved. Discussions relating to proposed disciplinary actions to sanction student conduct are considered “quasi-judicial deliberations” and can be held during executive session.  Picone v. Bangor Area Sch. Dist., 936 A.2d 556, 563 (Pa. Cmmw. 2007).

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  • Rhode Island

    Exemption (8) excludes executive sessions of school committees conducting disciplinary hearings or reviewing other matters relating to the privacy of students and their records.  However, students may require the meeting to be public.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-5(a)(8).

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  • South Carolina

    A school board could meet in executive session to consider promotion, demotion, discipline or release of an individual student. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-70(a)(1).

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  • South Dakota

    Closed. SDCL §1-25-2(2).

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  • Tennessee

    The Open Meetings Act makes no specific exemption for such matters. But see T.C.A. § 10-7-504(a)(4) (making most records of students in public educational institutions confidential).

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  • Texas

    Section 551.082 permits closed sessions when school boards consider “discipline of a public school child,” unless an open hearing is requested in writing by a parent or guardian of the child. But see United Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Gonzalez, 911 S.W.2d 118, 127 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 1995, writ denied per curiam, 940 S.W.2d 593 (Tex. 1996) (right to open session waived where, after providing written demand for open meeting, the student failed to object to the board president’s announcement that the board would retire to executive session to consider expulsion).

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  • Utah

    Discussions about a student’s character or physical or mental health would be exempt from the Open Meetings Act. See Utah Code § 52-4-205(1)(a).

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  • Vermont

    Closed if discussion concerns academic records, suspension or discipline of student.  1 V.S.A. § 313(a)(7); see also Caledonian-Record Publ’g Co. v. Vt. State Colleges, 2003 VT 78, ¶ 11-12, 833 A.2d 1273, 1277-78 (Vt. 2003) (affirming denial of request for access to student disciplinary records and proceedings).

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  • Virginia

    Discussion concerning admission or discipline of student(s) of any public institution of higher education or any state school system. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3711.A.2.

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  • Washington

    The OPMA has no provision for closing a meeting to discuss an individual student. Moreover, meetings of a student board which is the governing body of the recognized student association of a campus of a public institution of higher education must conform to the requirements of the Act. RCW 42.30.200.

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  • West Virginia

    Another broad exemption under the Act authorizes executive sessions to discuss the "disciplining, suspension or expulsion of any student in any public school or public college or university, unless such student requests an open meeting." W. Va. Code § 6-9A-4(b)(3).

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  • Wisconsin

    Meetings discussing individual students may be closed if the discussion involved personal histories or disciplinary data or preliminary investigation of charges “if discussed in public, would be likely to have a substantial adverse effect upon the reputation of any person.” Wis. Stat. § 19.85(1)(f).

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  • Wyoming

    A governing body of an agency may hold closed executive sessions on issues of student conduct. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(a)(xi) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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