A Wake County Superior Court judge wrote Tuesday that UNC should have complied with certain public records requests filed by media during the NCAA investigation of the football team.
Complete phone records of key officials involved in the investigation and athlete parking tickets — records requested by the The Daily Tar Heel, the (Raleigh) News & Observer and other media — should have been released, wrote Judge Howard Manning, who heard arguments from both UNC and media lawyers Friday.
The University withheld the information because officials said it was shielded by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects an individual student’s academic record. That law was being interpreted too broadly by the University, Manning wrote.
“FERPA does not provide a student with an invisible cloak so that the student can remain hidden from public view while enrolled at UNC,” Manning wrote.
In another section of the decision, the judge ruled in favor of the University that names, employment dates and salaries of student tutors are protected by FERPA.
The DTH, the News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer were among eight news organizations that filed suit in October.
Chancellor Holden Thorp, head football coach Butch Davis, athletic director Dick Baddour and Jeff McCracken, chief and director of the Department of Public Safety, are the four defendants named in the lawsuit.
In a statement Tuesday, Thorp expressed mixed feelings about Manning’s decision. He said he was pleased Manning had reaffirmed the privacy of student tutors — but unhappy with other information deemed public.
“We are disappointed with the court’s apparent interpretation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as it applies to student records related to phone numbers and parking tickets,” he said.