Campus News

Court Affirms That Education Records Must be Protected

photo of Main Building
Mark Cornelison | UK Photo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 17, 2019) — The Kentucky Court of Appeals today issued a ruling in the student privacy case between the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Kernel, the independent student newspaper at UK.

See court ruling in "Downloads" to the right, and following is a statement from UK Chief Communications Officer Jay Blanton:

"We are gratified that another court has strongly demonstrated its support for the important principle in this case — the legal and moral obligation we have to protect the privacy rights of our students. That continues to be the most important aspect of this case and now two courts have agreed with our position.

In this case, we have consistently argued — and, now, two courts have agreed — that the Constitution as well as federal and state privacy laws require the University to take every step possible to protect those privacy rights. Part of what it means to build a community of belonging is ensuring that victim-survivors know that we will do everything in our power to ensure that they are able to determine how, when or even if to tell their story.

A Court has reaffirmed our actions in that respect and the steps we took to protect our students. We continue to have grave concerns about the chilling effect any breach of a student’s privacy will have on the willingness of victim-survivors to come forward and seek support and justice. In the case at hand, The Kernel published the academic department, degree program (with a small number of students), and gender of the victim-survivors. In such cases, an individual’s identity could be easily revealed in a quick set of mouse clicks by a skillful Googler relying upon records already publicly available.

As Judge Clark agreed, no amount of redaction would protect the constitutional and statutory privacy rights of the students. Judge Clark recognized that, in the internet age, protection of privacy interests requires far more than deleting the names. While we respect the Court of Appeals’ perspective, we remain very concerned about how we navigate our ultimate responsibility to the privacy and safety of our students in an unregulated internet age.

Finally, the University declined to provide redacted documents to the Kernel because the University believed that no amount of redaction would protect the student's privacy.  The University refused to supply documents to the Attorney General for in Camera review because the U.S. Department of Education has said — and continues to say — that educational records cannot be disclosed to a State Attorney General in the context of an Open Records dispute. As for the secondary, but still important, issue of redaction, we will take time to review that part of the court’s findings closely before taking next steps.” – Jay Blanton

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for,”  and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.