An Ohio appellate court ruled Wednesday that news media organizations are not entitled to the school records of a gunman who killed nine people in Dayton.
The three 2nd Court of Appeals judges upheld Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools’ denial of access to the high school files of Connor Betts. Police killed Betts, 24, to end an Aug. 4 massacre in Dayton’s entertainment district.
The court ruled the news organizations hadn’t established a clear legal right to the records. The district argued that such confidential school records are generally protected by federal and state laws, and that the death of an adult former student didn’t change that protection.
“The news agencies have not convinced us that an unwritten exception to this exception exists, making the records public records,” wrote presiding Judge Jeffrey Welbaum.
The organizations that sued could appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Associated Press is among them.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost had sided with the news groups in a court filing, saying that federal privacy protections don’t apply after a student’s death according to U.S. Department of Education guidance. Yost said Ohio law demands broad access to public records.
How warning signs from Betts were handled could be in the shielded records news media organizations were seeking.
High school classmates said after the shooting that Betts was suspended for compiling a “hit list” and a “rape list.”
Police said soon after the shooting that their investigation found that Betts was very interested in mass shootings and “expressed a desire to commit a mass shooting.”
Follow Dan Sewell at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell