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Supreme Court Could Require Schools to Release Sexual Assault Records

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Oct 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

A new Supreme Court case may have significant ramifications for how universities handle sexual misconduct cases. The University of North Carolina recently petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a state court ruling that requires the school to reveal sexual assault records.

The Supreme Court's decision will likely impact the privacy of students involved in sexual misconduct cases at colleges across the nation. Here's what you need to know.

What is the UNC Supreme Court Case?

The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that universities must release student sexual assault records to comply with state records laws. As a result, the University of North Carolina released records showing 15 students violated their sexual assault policy since 2007.

The University of North Carolina is fighting back. In September, University officials petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case. School officials argue that the state public records laws contradict federal privacy laws ensured under the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The university's petition states that school administrators should not release student records that reveal the identity of sexual assault victims. The petition argues that keeping records private helps to ensure the safety and well-being of its students.

What is FERPA?

FERPA is a federal law that mandates schools must protect the privacy of student education records. The law states that schools must have permission from the student to release information from their student record. FERPA does allow schools to release records without consent in some circumstances, such as to comply with a judicial order, subpoena, or state and local authorities.

FERPA also exempts schools from prohibiting the disclosure of results of disciplinary proceedings against students who committed crimes, such as sexual assault. However, schools frequently use FERPA to deny the release of student sexual assault records. A survey of 110 campuses revealed 22 schools refused to disclose campus crime information under FERPA.

What's at Stake

The Supreme Court's decision may decide how universities across the country disclose sexual assault records. If the Supreme Court rules that assault records be made public, it will threaten the privacy of students involved in sexual misconduct cases.

The University of North Carolina's petition states that students accused of sexual misconduct will be open to “the possibility of harassment, retribution, threats to immediate physical safety and a lifelong stigma even if not found guilty.” Many student advocates also believe that disclosing assault records could disrupt investigations, expose victims, and reduce the number of reported cases of misconduct.

Victims and defendants in college sexual misconduct cases currently enjoy privacy protection. North Carolina's court ruling jeopardizes this privacy. Students accused of sexual misconduct may face damages to their reputation and additional barriers to clearing their names.

Nationwide Student Defense

If you or someone you know is accused of sexual misconduct, it's crucial to maintain your privacy. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has fought for the rights and confidentiality of his clients for many years, and has become preeminent in handling college sexual misconduct and Title IX cases across the nation. Attorney Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm will work tirelessly to protect your privacy and your reputation. Contact us today by calling 888-535-3686.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience passionately fighting for the futures of his clients. Mr. Lento represents students and others in disciplinary cases and other proceedings at universities and colleges across the United States while concurrently fighting in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, and New Jersey. Mr. Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand universities and colleges across the United States. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide.

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