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Ohio School Can’t Release Records of Mass Shooter, Court Rules

Courthouse News Service |

In a 6-1 decision, the state’s top court ruled that Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local School District is not allowed under state law to turn over the personal records of Connor Betts, the gunman who killed nine and injured 27 in Dayton in August 2019. 

Justice Melody J. Stewart wrote for the majority, finding that the Ohio General Assembly did not expressly permit the release of records for students who died without giving consent. 

The decision upholds a state appeals court ruling prohibiting the release of the records to news outlets wanting to explore whether there had been any warning signs in Betts’ past, and whether those red flags had been properly addressed. “The Second District Court of Appeals found that…a provision of the Ohio Student Privacy Act (OSPA) prohibits disclosure of such records without the written consent of the adult former student, with no exception for the former student’s death,” Stewart wrote. “Because the OSPA unambiguously forbids disclosure of the requested records, we affirm.”

Several journalists from various news outlets filed public records requests with the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local School District. The district denied the requests, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Ohio Student Privacy Act. 

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