University must release student disciplinary records
OHIO–Miami University must release records of student disciplinary proceedings to the student newspaper that requested them in 1995, the state Supreme Court in Columbus ruled in early July.
The high court decided 4 to 2 that the disciplinary records do not fall within the definition of “education records” protected by federal law and must be disclosed under the state public records act.
The court ordered the state-funded university to release the records, but ruled that student names, social security numbers and I.D. numbers, as well as the exact dates and time of the alleged misconduct, may be withheld.
In spring 1995, Jennifer Markiewicz, then editor of the student newspaper the Miami Student, requested records of proceedings held before the University Disciplinary Board so she could compile a database to track student crime trends on campus.
Initially, the university denied Markiewicz’s request. But in April 1996, it released edited copies of UDB records. The university not only redacted student names and ID numbers, but also the gender and age of those accused as well as the date, time and location of the incidents giving rise to the disciplinary charges. The university claimed that the information it withheld was protected from disclosure by the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), also known as the Buckley Amendment.
FERPA allows the federal government to impose penalties, including the denial of federal funds, on schools that release a student’s “education records” without the student’s permission. In this case, the university was concerned that it could lose as much as $40 million in federal funding if it released the UDB records.
The high court held that the UDB proceedings were “nonacademic in nature.” The UDB adjudicates cases involving student rules and regulations as well as criminal matters. The records the UDB maintains do not contain grades or academic performance data. Thus, the court held, the records are not “education records” as defined in FERPA. (Ohio ex rel. The Miami Student v. Miami University; Media Counsel: Marc Mezibov, Cincinnati)