Ohio Supreme Court Affirms Decision That The Ohio Student Privacy Act Forbids Release of Student Records of Deceased Student

In January 2020, we reported to you that the Second Appellate District Court in Ohio ruled that the death of a student does not remove the legal protections of the confidentiality of student records. Find more details from the January 2020 report here. State ex. rel CNN, Inc. v. Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local School Dist., 2019-Ohio-4187.

This case was appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, who issued a decision on November 5, 2020. In brief summary, CNN and other local and national media organizations sought student records regarding a deceased adult former student who killed nine people and injured 27 others in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio on August 4, 2019. The Ohio Supreme Court specifically found that school districts are “prohibited from releasing any personally identifying information about [a student] without … consent.” The Court determined that there was no exception provided for in Ohio’s Student Privacy Act, R.C. 3319.321, to permit the release of personally identifiable information when the student is deceased. While the Court mentioned the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), it found that it did not need to consider the federal law as state law prohibited the disclosure of the requested record.

As a result, the Second Appellate District Court’s decision was affirmed, through the Court’s finding that the Ohio Student Privacy Act “unambiguously forbids disclosure of the requested records.”

State ex rel. Cable News Network, Inc. v. Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools, 2020-Ohio-5149 (Nov. 5, 2020)