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Engstrom files on behalf of SPLC at Court of Appeals


This week, Engstrom filed a brief and supporting motion on behalf of the Student Press Law Center ("SPLC") at the North Carolina Court of Appeals. In the brief, Engstrom and SPLC argue that the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) does not preclude the University of North Carolina from disclosing records of sexual assault investigations in response to a public records request. SPLC has more:

The case originated with an October 2016 open-records request by the independent student newspaper at UNC, the Daily Tar Heel, which has aggressively covered the university's response to sexual assault and has regularly feuded with the university over its aggressive use of FERPA privacy to withhold public records. The newspaper is seeking records of cases in which students or faculty were found to have committed sexual assault or sexual harassment, and in those cases, what penalties were imposed. But the university turned down the request on the grounds of student confidentiality, and the student newspaper, joined by a coalition of professional media organizations, filed suit. In May 2017, a trial-court judge ruled that UNC has discretion to turn down the open-records request, relying on a federal regulation that says universities "may" disclose the outcomes of cases where students are found responsible for sex crimes.

The Court of Appeals allowed the motion on Friday. The next step in the case is for the North Carolina Attorney General to respond by November 15. The court will then either schedule the case for oral argument or make a decision on the briefs.

The Student Press Law Center is a nonprofit, Washington, D.C.-based advocate for the rights of student journalists to gather and publish information to inform their communities. Through its 215-member nationwide network of attorney volunteers, the SPLC regularly appears in state and federal courts in cases that implicate the ability of journalists to gather information about colleges and schools.

#UniversityofNorthCarolina #DailyTarHeel #StudentPressLawCenter #PublicRecords #Litigation #FERPA

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