The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from UNC-Chapel Hill on Jan. 22, 2021 after a four-year legal battle between the university; their student run newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel; and other local media outlets. All North Carolina public universities, including NC State, are now required to release campus records of sexual assault.
As of now, no specific deadline for compliance has been established, but the decision still stands to set a precedent for what is expected from North Carolina universities when it comes to sexual assault cases.
The legal battle began in September 2016 when The Daily Tar Heel filed an open records request to obtain records detailing any and all incidents where students or faculty members were found responsible for allegations of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment. Since then, the case has been appealed two times, once by The Daily Tar Heel and once by UNC-CH due to concerns over student privacy. Since then, the case has made its way through the courts system and to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The main argument for not releasing the records has centered around the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA. FERPA is a federal law meant to protect the educational records of students. UNC-CH cites FERPA and other concerns as why they cannot release any identifiable information about students who were found to be in violation of the university’s sexual assault policies. The Daily Tar Heel argued that the school should be required to release the records to the students because of a FERPA exemption regarding violent crimes, which the publication deemed rape and sexual assault classified under.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision that FERPA does not prevent UNC-CH from releasing the records and that the university must therefore complete the open records request and release the names and disciplinary records of students found responsible for sexual misconduct on campus through their normal means of publishing disciplinary proceedings.
This is a developing story. An update will be posted with a statement from University spokesperson Mick Kulikowski at a later date.