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The University’s efforts to limit release of sexual assault records ended on Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court denied UNC’s appeal of a May ruling.
North Carolina’s highest court had ordered UNC to release the records of disciplinary action against students found to have violated sexual assault policy. The University maintained that the records were protected by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
The University last summer released records of its disposition of 15 sexual assault cases since 2007 in response to that ruling. The records show 15 people were found in violation of University policy on assault. Two of them were expelled and the others suspended, among other sanctions. UNC then sought a review from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Four news organizations — The Daily Tar Heel, The Charlotte Observer, The Herald-Sun of Durham and WRAL’s Capitol Broadcasting — filed suit in 2016 after UNC refused public records requests for the names, offenses and punishments for students found responsible for sexual misconduct.
In 2019, the University argued before the N.C. Supreme Court that releasing names would discourage victims and witnesses from coming forward.
Hugh Stevens ’65 (’68 JD), the lawyer for the news organizations, argued that to withhold the records hinders the public’s understanding of how the University handles sexual impropriety cases.
“We respect but are disappointed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to deny the University’s request to review the North Carolina Supreme Court’s ruling,” Vice Chancellor for University Communications Joel Curran ’86 said in a statement Monday. “We stand by our belief in the importance of a confidential process for everyone involved, one that protects the identities of sexual assault victims. Since the North Carolina Supreme Court ruling in May, the University has fully complied with the court’s direction.”