The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled in favor of student journalists, forcing the University of Kentucky to turn over documents related to sexual misconduct allegations against professors.
The university had tried to fight the release, citing student privacy laws. But after a four-year legal battle, the court ruled on March 25 in favor of the reporters.
In Episode 9, we talked about how universities are improperly leaning on privacy laws to keep sexual assault and harassment allegations from the public.
In this case, Kentucky didn’t want to turn over documents related to accusations made by two students against Professor James Harwood. Under the Open Records Act, the Kentucky Kernel, a student newspaper, requested the documents and the University of Kentucky declined the request.
The Fayette County Circuit Court initially ruled in favor of the University of Kentucky in 2017, but the Kernel appealed the case to Kentucky’s Court of Appeals, which reversed the ruling and ruled the university should release the documents.
On March 27, the state Supreme Court ruled that “The Open Records Act encourages the ‘free and open examination of public records’ even where examination ‘may cause inconvenience or embarrassment to public officials or others.’”
Even though the University may find the Kernel’s document requests intrusive, the University is “not authorized to decide what public records must be disclosed and what records can lawfully be withheld.”