On the News

OH High Court Denies Release of Mass Killer’s School Records

School records of the deceased Dayton shooter who killed nine people last year cannot be released to the media, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday. In a 6-1 decision, the court ruled that Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local School District is not allowed under state law to turn over the personal records of Connor Betts, who killed nine and injured 27 in Dayton in August 2019, reports Courthouse News Service. Justice Melody Stewart wrote for the majority, finding that the Ohio General Assembly did not permit the release of records for students who died without giving consent. The decision upholds an appeals court ruling prohibiting the release of the records to news outlets who wanted to explore whether there had been any warning signs in Betts’ past, and whether those red flags had been properly addressed.

Betts graduated from Bellbrook High School in 2013. He was 24 when police killed him at the scene of the shooting spree in a Dayton entertainment district. 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 and the Ohio Student Privacy Act. News organizations including CNN, the Associated Press and Cox Media Group sought a court order to compel the school district to produce Betts’ records. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office and other news outlets filed an amicus brief in support of the media companies, arguing the privacy laws do not protect the records of former students who died as adults. The justices disagreed. “The records of a person who attended a public school can be disclosed only with the consent of the student, if the student is 18 years of age or older,” Stewart wrote. “If the student is deceased, he is no longer available to grant consent.”