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Records Must Be Withheld When Requester Knows Student Identities

In the case of Krouse v. Ohio State Univ., 2018-Ohio-5014, an Ohio Court of Claims adopted a special master’s findings that personally identifiable information cannot be redacted and records must be withheld in their entirety when the a public records requester already knows the identity of the student whom the records relate. Additionally, when a request is made for records related to a named student, the requestor inherently knows the student’s identity and the records are exempt from disclosure.

In Krouse, the public record requestor asked for any documents submitted by the public officer in response to a subpoena for a specific student’s records. Under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), an educational agency can only produce requested records if it has removed all personally identifiable information regarding a student from the records. Personally identifiable information is defined here and includes “information requested by a person who the educational agency or institution reasonably believes knows the identity of the student to whom the education record relates.” 34 CFR 99.3 (2009). In this case, the court held that a public record request seeking all documents related to a named student would fall under this regulation as the nature of the request “justifies, if not compels, [a] reasonable belief that [the requester] knew the identity of the student to whom the education records relate.” Krouse at ¶ 14. And, because the requester already knows the student’s identity, the records must be withheld in their entirety. Krouse at ¶ 14.

Public record custodians must remember that records are exempt from disclosure – in their entirety – when a request is made for records related to a named or known student.

To read the report and recommendation in Krouse, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling, Patrick Vrobel, and John T. Sulik, Jr.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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