A federal judge in North Carolina sealed a transcript of a University of North Carolina (UNC) hearing to determine whether the plaintiff was responsible for committing sexual acts without consent. In the case in question, the defendant brought suit against UNC, Jane Doe, and various school administrators after the Administrative Judicial Board found him responsible for committing sexual acts without Jane Doe’s consent. Jane Doe, the student who brought the complaint, moved the Court to seal the transcript of the hearing and permit her to proceed under a pseudonym.
Jane Doe claimed that Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) provided evidence of a compelling governmental interest in keeping the transcript private which outweighed any presumption that court records should be public. The plaintiff argued that the transcript was only part of his educational records, not Jane Doe’s records, and that FERPA did not provide a mechanism for sealing court documents. The Court disagreed.
The Court held that the hearing transcript constituted an “education record” as defined by FERPA and that the transcript was part of both the accused student and the alleged victim’s records. Accordingly, it held that Jane Doe had a compelling interest in sealing the hearing transcript.