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The Daily Tar Heel

N.C. Supreme Court will hear DTH's public records lawsuit against UNC

Lawyer Hugh Stevens presents the DTH's argument in court on Tuesday morning.

Lawyer Hugh Stevens presents the DTH's argument in court on Tuesday morning.

The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed to hear a public records case involving The Daily Tar Heel demanding UNC release the names, offenses and disciplinary actions taken by the University against faculty or students who committed instances of sexual misconduct during their affiliation with UNC.

The State Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the media coalition led by the DTH last April. 

"I’m confident that the Court of Appeals ruling will be upheld," said Rachel Jones, the newspaper's editor.  "I’m proud to be part of a paper that is fighting for press freedom." 

In November 2016, The Daily Tar Heel sued UNC after the University denied a public records request, claiming the information contained educational records protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).In May 2017, the North Carolina Superior Court ruled that disclosure of those records was at the University's discretion. 

Hugh Stevens, who represents The Daily Tar Heel, appealed the decision in September of 2017. The N.C. Court of Appeals sided with the media, ruling the University must release the names of people found responsible for rape, sexual assault or any related acts of sexual misconduct through the University's Honor Court, Committee on Student Conduct or Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office. The following month, UNC filed petitions to the North Carolina Supreme Court. 

After the Superior Court decision, UNC has argued protecting the perpetrator’s identity in a campus community protects the victim’s identity, and that the release of the records would interfere with its handling of sexual assault and sexual harassment proceedings under federal law Title IX. 

“That generally, this whole Title IX apparatus is predominantly conducted in secret, which in my view makes it all more important that we find out who has been punished as a result of these proceedings,” Stevens told the court in March.

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