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Court Orders UNC Chapel Hill To Disclose Names Of Sexual Assault Perpetrators

Seth Ilys / Wikimedia Commons
The Old Well at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A state appeals court has ordered UNC Chapel Hill to make public the names of students and employees it has found responsible for rape or sexual assault through the honor court and other non-criminal internal procedures.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals unanimously ruled Tuesday that the university cannot cite federal student privacy law to withhold the information. According to the ruling, the only information the university is allowed to withhold under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act is the date the offense occurred.

"FERPA does not prohibit the disclosure of the limited information requested by Plaintiffs, except for the dates of offenses," the ruling states. "Defendants must comply with Plaintiffs’ public records request to release the student disciplinary records at issue.”  

The appellate ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by a coalition of media affiliates, including the campus newspaper The Daily Tar Heel, the Charlotte Observer, the Herald Sun in Durham and WRAL-TV.

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The lawsuit was first heard before an Orange County court in May 2017, in which the judge ruled that FERPA does prohibit the university providing information on sexual assault cases.

The university said in a statement that it agrees with the previous district court ruling and is “disappointed” with the N.C. Court of Appeals decision. UNC spokesman Joel Curran said the university is “examining all legal options” in response to the latest ruling.

"Our position is based on the principle that we must protect the identities of survivors and other parties who put their trust in the University’s Title IX process and their rights under federal privacy law,” Curran said.

According to the News and Observer, the university updated its policy for handling sexual assault cases three years ago following a federal investigation into claims the school under-reported sexual assault complaints and created a “hostile environment” for students who stepped forward.