The North Carolina Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments concerning the appeal of a 2017 decision in a public-records lawsuit brought against UNC by The Daily Tar Heel in conjunction with several other local media organizations. Oral arguments for the appeal will be heard at North Carolina Central University on March 20.
Filed in Nov. 2016, the lawsuit was brought by the DTH after UNC denied a request for disclosure of records regarding disciplinary actions taken by the University against students or faculty who committed instances of sexual misconduct during their affiliation with the University.
UNC maintains that specific records can be withheld at the discretion of the University under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This position was seemingly reaffirmed by the May 2017 ruling, which the DTH's representation, Stevens Martin Vaughn & Tadych, PLLC., have moved to appeal.
Hugh Stevens, the partner heading the case for the DTH, stated that the only relevant consideration in the appeal should be the requirements of public records release under the law, not the negative consequences that UNC has implied will happen if the records are released. DTH General Manager Erica Perel also expressed concern that records which were not explicitly protected by FERPA were still not being made available to the public.
"Our belief is that if FERPA doesn't protect a record, then it falls under the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Open Records Law and therefore, I think that information would be public," Perel said.