Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Newspaper appeals privacy ruling

BY Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A newspaper that sought student disciplinary records from two Ohio universities is appealing a federal judge's ruling that the files must be closed again.

        The Chronicle of Higher Education is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to reverse that ruling and open the records.

        Notice of appeal — the first step — has been filed. Briefs will be filed later this year.

        The Washington, D.C.-based weekly says disciplinary records are not covered by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

        The U.S. Department of Education said disciplinary records were education records, and Miami and Ohio State universities may not release them. U.S. District Judge George C. Smith agreed.

        The case began in state court when the Miami student newspaper challenged the federal privacy law and escalated when the Chronicle involved itself.

        Both universities released some records — including students' names — to the Chronicle after the Ohio Supreme Court said the documents were not protected by FERPA.

        The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene, and the federal Department of Education sued in federal court to force compliance with FERPA.

        Chronicle attorney Marc D. Mezibov said that “student disciplinary rulings are of a paramount concern not only to college communities but prospective students and their parents.”


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