Judicial hearings closed
Ruling overturned to make student hearings private
Georgia College’s general counsel closed all Student Judicial Board meetings to the public after the Georgia Legislature passed a revision to Georgia’s Open Meeting Act.
In an email sent to Student Affairs, counselor Marc Cardinalli stated that a section in House Bill 397 overturned a Georgia Supreme Court case, that previously established student judicial meetings and records as open to the public.
“This means that all student disciplinary hearings are now private and confidential,” Cardinalli wrote. “These hearings are no longer open to the public.”
In 1993, the University of Georgia’s student newspaper, The Red & Black, won a landmark case against the Board of Regents that challenged previous definitions of open records and meetings in higher education. This case established that student courts within the University of Georgia “are in fact subject to the Georgia Open Records Act and the Georgia Open Meetings Act, in that they are acting on behalf of the University Board of Regents,” according to the Sunshine Review, a nonprofit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency.
Prior to the Red & Black case, campus administrators in Georgia cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), as their reason for closing student judicial meetings.
Georgia is a permissive state, which means all public records are open unless specifically exempted, and in the court opinion in 1993, student judicial records and meetings were not specifically exempted.
The opinion states:
“We are mindful that openness in sensitive proceedings is sometimes unpleasant, difficult, and occasionally harmful. The policy of this state is that the public’s business must be open, not only to protect against potential abuses, but also to maintain the public’s confidence in its officials.”
In House Bill 397, which was passed this spring, Cardinalli said section 37 refers to Student Judicial Board meetings.
The section reads that “any record that would not be subject to disclosure, or the disclosure of which would jeopardize the receipt of federal funds, under 20 U.S.C. Section 1232g (FERPA) or its implementing regulations.”
Cardinalli said the section overturns the Red & Black decision and creates an exception to Open Records Laws. He also said this section would make open judicial board meetings violate FERPA.