Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Court to Determine if Public School District Must Give Private School Advocate Student Names and Addresses

Among Six Cases Scheduled for Oral Arguments

Image of someone thumbing through a stack of file folders (Thinkstock)

Private school advocates are asking the Ohio Supreme Court to order a public school district release student names and addresses.

Image of someone thumbing through a stack of file folders (Thinkstock)

Private school advocates are asking the Ohio Supreme Court to order a public school district release student names and addresses.

A non-profit group that informs students in “low-rated” public schools about the state’s Educational Choice Scholarship claims Springfield City Schools are improperly using a federal privacy law to block the group fom getting the childrens' names and addresses. The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week to determine if Springfield’s change in policy violates the state’s public records act.

School Choice Ohio, Inc. (SCO) attempts to inform parents and students about the 14,000 scholarships the state now provides to students attending or entering “low-rated” schools as designated by the Ohio Department of Education. To reach those eligible, SCO makes public records requests for names and addresses from districts with scholarship-eligible students. In School Choice Ohio, Inc. v. Springfield City School District, it states Springfield as well as other districts routinely provided the group the basic information. However, when Springfield adopted a new policy in 2013 citing the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) as preventing it from releasing the data, SCO came directly to the Supreme Court to seek an order forcing the district to provide it. The statewide organizations representing public school board members and administrators have asked the Court to back Springfield’s policy, claiming this is an important case to uphold the discretion of all local school boards.

SCO asks for information that qualifies as “directory information” under FERPA and can be released by a school district without parental consent, unless a parent has specifically requested a school district not release it. FERPA, in general, prohibits education records and “personally-identifiable information” about students from being released to anyone other than students and their parents. However, it gives districts the options of designating and releasing certain information that the federal government deems not harmful, such as names, addresses, participation in activities and sports, achievements, honors, and dates of graduation. That data can be distributed if the district provides notice to parents that it intends to make it public and gives parents time to opt out if they don’t want the information released.

In January 2013, Springfield denied SCO’s directory information request for students in seven schools on the state low-rated list, saying it passed a policy stopping the collection of “directory information.” Instead the consent notice to parents was replaced with a new consent form that collected essentially the same information, but only allows for the release of the data if the parents actually signed a form, and then, the district would share the information only for purposes approved by the superintendent.

SCO counters that under the state public records law, R.C. 149.43, if Springfield collected names and addresses, it had to make them public regardless of whether the data was labeled directory information. The group argues that the district at least has to provide the information for students whose parents signed the form permitting the information to be released.

Oral Arguments
In addition to the public records case, the Court will hear two other appeals on Tuesday, Jan. 26 and three cases on Wednesday, Jan. 27, including two death penalty sentence appeals. The Court’s sessions begin at 9 a.m. at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. The arguments will be streamed live online at sc.ohio.gov and broadcast live on The Ohio Channel.

Previews Available
Along with the brief descriptions below, the Office of Public Information today released previews of the cases.

Cases for Tuesday, Jan. 26
A Toledo man was convicted for the 2008 murder of a convenience store clerk, and a three-judge panel imposed the death penalty. In his appeal, Belton v. State, the man contends that life in prison is the minimum sentence needed to meet the felony sentencing goals of protecting the public and punishing the offender, and death then is inappropriate. Although he declined a jury trial and pled no contest to the charges against him, he argues a jury should’ve determined his punishment after the panel found him guilty.

In Lorain County Bar Association v. Provenza, the Board of Professional Conduct recommends a six-month actual suspension for a Lorain County attorney who mismanaged two cases. The board found the lawyer’s motive was dishonest and selfish, and it increased the proposed sanction from a six-month fully stayed suspension to an actual timeout. The attorney maintains that the personal problems he had at the time don’t support such a motive, and he asks the Court to adopt the lesser sanction agreed to by him and the bar association.

Cases for Wednesday, Jan. 27
A Columbus man has been sentenced to death for the 2010 triple murder of his former girlfriend, his son, and another child. The man chose to have his case heard by a three-judge panel, and he then pled guilty. He asserts in Montgomery v. State that the state didn’t prove he killed one of the children to escape detection. He also notes that he takes prescription medications for depression, and he argues that a medical expert should’ve evaluated the potential impact of the drugs on his decisions to waive his rights.

Proof of what documents a bank needs to foreclose on a defaulting homeowner are at issue in Deutsche Bank National Trust Company v. Holden. Deutsche Bank purchased the promissory note the homebuyer signed from Novastar Mortgage when he bought it, and the bank later acquired the man and his wife’s mortgage separately. When the man stopped paying on the home, he had the promissory note discharged in bankruptcy. Deutsche Bank filed a complaint in Summit County to foreclose on the mortgage. The couple countersued saying the bank had to prove it had an interest in both the note and the mortgage to sue. They claim the paperwork filed in the court indicated only Novastar had an interest in the note, so the bank had no authority to foreclose.

An honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran was originally granted unemployment benefits, but the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) determined he didn’t qualify. In Ohio Department of Job and Family Services v. Pryor, the man failed to name the Army as an interested party in his notice of appeal, which ODJFS argues is required by state law. The Ninth District Court of Appeals court ruled the man provided enough to have a hearing in court, but it noted its decision conflicts with six other appellate courts. ODJFS argues that the exact requirements of the law must be followed and courts have no discretion to accept less.

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