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Feds sue Miami, OSU over student records
OXFORD, Ohio -- The federal government has entered the dispute over student disciplinary records by filing a suit to stop Miami University and Ohio State University from complying with a Ohio Supreme Court decision that opens access to such information.
The complaint filed Thursday by the U.S. Department of Justice in U.S. District Court in Columbus challenges the state court ruling that disciplinary records are not "educational records" and thus are not protected by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Immediately following the state court ruling in July, The Chronicle of Higher Education filed a public records requests with Ohio State and Miami seeking access to disciplinary records, including names of victims, witnesses and those accused of misconduct.
"The university's goal all along has been to seek clarity in a conflict that pits state public records law against federal privacy law," said Richard Little, senior director of university communications. "We will comply with whatever the law says--we just want someone to determine once and for all what it says."
In an attempt to clarify the situation, Miami appealed the Ohio Supreme Court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but this past December the nation's high court declined to accept the case. Miami and Ohio State then began complying with public records requests from media organizations.
"Given the vacuum, the opinion of attorneys for Miami and Ohio State, and of the Ohio attorney general's office, was that the state supreme court decision meant disciplinary records kept by Ohio's public colleges and universities are no different than any other public record: open to anyone who requests them," Little said.
The federal government is seeking an injunction that would stop Miami and Ohio State from releasing records with personally identifiable information without permission from students, pending a court ruling on whether such action violates FERPA.