A previous ruling said the school must release details on how the school disciplined students “found responsible for rape or sexual assault.”
The University of North Carolina is seeking to overturn a decision by the North Carolina Court of Appeals that ruled the school must release details on how the school disciplined students “found responsible for rape or sexual assault.”
The case stems from a November 2016 lawsuit filed by a coalition of North Carolina media organizations – including the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, and the parent companies of the Durham Herald Sun and WRAL News – who challenged the university’s denial of a records request for the case information. University officials said the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, designed to protect student educational records, prevented disclosure.
Stephanie Brennan, a lawyer with the state attorney general’s office representing UNC, told justices Tuesday that although provisions in FERPA give university officials the option of releasing the information, nothing in the law requires release. That discretion, she said, preempts North Carolina’s open records law, which broadly permits access to records maintained by public agencies.
“They’re not reconcilable here in the sense that we can just try to make them work together,” Brennan said. “Here, the supremacy clause means that the federal statute has to prevail.”
Brennan also raised the potential of a “chilling effect” on reports of sexual assault if the anonymous nature of the cases were revealed to the press.
“If victims don’t access the system, there’s no ability for the university to address sexual assault as they are required to do by Title IX,” Brennan said.
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