Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools Stresses the Importance of Student Privacy, Upholding the Law
[BELLBROOK, OH, August 9, 2019] - The Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District has confirmed that it will not release the student records for Connor Betts, a 2013 graduate of Bellbrook High School and the suspected shooter from the tragedy on August 4 in the Oregon District in Dayton, Ohio.
“The mandate to Ohio schools is that we must not divulge confidential student records without clear consent from the student or parents and we have not received such consent,” said Liz Betz, president of the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District Board of Education. “We know everyone is trying to make sense of the devastation that occurred, but we cannot bypass the law, plain and simple.”
The district is cooperating with the FBI and local law enforcement to provide those organizations with any information that is requested of the district for their ongoing investigation.
“News organizations have contended that the federal and state protections afforded in regards to student records expire upon the death of the student, which would mean that the families and estates of all students who pass away, regardless of the manner of death, would be entirely without recourse with respect to those records,” said Tabitha Justice, district lawyer. “And the fact of the matter is that this interpretation is not consistent with the plain language or intent of those laws. Those laws are in place to protect the privacy of students and families and that is what the district intends to do.”
Betz confirms this intention, stating that “the school board believes that the parents and students of our district must have confidence in us to protect all students and know that we will not turn over their confidential records without a court order or other clear legal authority requiring us to do so. While events occurring nearly ten years ago may be of interest to the public, this is not sufficient basis for us to forego our obligations to protect student confidentiality.”
The district also cautioned that some of the statements that have been published are not entirely accurate.
“The truth is, Connor graduated from Bellbrook High School over six years ago; I’m sure a lot has changed in Connor’s life between now and then, just as a lot has changed in the way that schools approach safety, wellness and mental health awareness,” said Betz. “One thing we can tell the public is that the safety of our students is and always has been our highest priority. Any threats to that safety are addressed immediately and to the greatest extent permitted by law.”