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Open records ruling may shed light on Bobby Knight dismissal

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Open records ruling may shed light on Bobby Knight dismissal

  • The Indianapolis Star won access to some records on the firing of a legendary Indiana University basketball coach, but an appeals court allowed several categories of information to be withheld.

May 7, 2003 — The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled May 2 that Indiana University must turn over some records created in an internal investigation of former head basketball coach Bobby Knight. Records relating to Knight’s dismissal and disciplinary actions taken against him must be released, the court ruled.

However, the court also held that the university can withhold records that contain private information on students. Information that is opinion or speculative, as opposed to factual, also can be withheld.

Knight, who now coaches basketball at Texas Tech University, was fired from Indiana in September 2000 after an investigation by the university revealed that he had behaved inappropriately toward players, including one incident in which he choked player Neil Reed.

The Indianapolis Star sued Indiana University in March 2000 under the Access to Public Records Act for the investigatory records that led to Knight’s dismissal.

To preserve the rights of students under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that protects student educational records, the court ordered the redaction of “information that could identify any present or former students in violation of the confidentiality mandated by the FERPA.”

In a setback to the newspaper, the court ruled that records compiled by the Indiana University Police Department in its investigation of allegations that Knight had inappropriate physical contact with another athlete, Kent Harvey, an IU freshman, are “non-discloseable investigatory records” under state open records law. The police department had handed over its files to the university trustees who investigated Knight’s conduct.

The court also held that the university could shield the release of all information if it could prove before the lower court that the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege. Two Indiana University trustees, who also are attorneys, conducted the internal investigation for the university. A Morgan County special judge will decide whether this privilege is applicable.

(The Indianapolis Star v. The Trustees of Indiana University; Media Counsel, Kevin M. Betz, Betz & Associates, Indianapolis, Ind.) GS

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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