Dayton shooter’s school records can be kept secret, court says

Dion Green places a portrait of his father, Derrick Fudge, on Fifth St. in the Oregon District.
Dion Green places a portrait of his father, Derrick Fudge, on Fifth St. in the Oregon District.

Credit: JIM NOEKLER

Credit: JIM NOEKLER

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools does not have to release school records of the mass shooter who murdered nine people in the Oregon District.

The court determined that disclosure of the records without written consent from the dead man would violate the Ohio Student Privacy Act.

On Aug. 4, 2019, 24-year-old Connor Betts killed nine people, including his sibling, and injured 27 others during a rampage in the Oregon District. Dayton police shot Betts within 32 seconds.

The Dayton Daily News and other media outlets requested Betts' school records, including disciplinary records, under Ohio’s open records law. The school district denied those requests.

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Betts was a 2013 Bellbrook High School graduate.

“The records of a person who attended a public school can be disclosed only with the consent of the student, if that student is 18 years of age or older. If that student is deceased, he is no longer available to grant consent,” the majority opinion stated.

Betts’ former classmates told this news organization that Betts had created a hit list and a rape list with other students' names, had other incidents of violence and threats as a teenager and was suspended from Bellbrook High School for an extended period of time.

The district said in a written release that it respects the law and the court decision. “We have and will continue to take the safety of our students very seriously. As a public school district, our responsibility, first and foremost, is to our students and their families who should 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.”

Generally, student records are permanently maintained. The law is silent on what happens to confidentiality provisions once a student is deceased. Records that are not public documents because of an exception in the law become public 75 years after their creation, the court said.

Six justices agreed with the majority opinion; Justice Sharon Kennedy dissented.

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