Over a year after the North Carolina Court of Appeals said UNC 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 to complete a public records request made by The Daily Tar Heel, lawyers argued the case before the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Stephanie Brennan, special deputy attorney general for the North Carolina Department of Justice, said the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the University was required to disclose this information for three reasons: the North Carolina Public Records Act has an exception for when the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act applies; there is conflict between FERPA and the Public Records Act in this case; and the Public Records Act poses an obstacle to federal objectives.
Brennan said that when FERPA, a federal law, comes into conflict with state records laws, the records law should yield, allowing the University to have discretion when it comes to disclosing the names of perpetrators. Hugh Stevens, an attorney representing the DTH, said FERPA does not apply in this situation.
Brennan’s arguments also referenced concerns that releasing the names of sexual assault perpetrators would jeopardize the anonymity of their victims. She referenced affidavits filed that provided reasoning for the University not to include this information in sexual assault cases.
“With respect to the victims, the affidavits testified that there would be a chilling effect if the names were put out to the press,” Brennan said.