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Bellbrook-Sugarcreek schools fight release of shooter’s records

Published: Friday, August 16, 2019 @ 5:48 PM

Bellbrook High School on Upper Bellbrook Road in Sugarcreek Township. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Bellbrook High School on Upper Bellbrook Road in Sugarcreek Township. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

The Bellbrook-Sugarcreek school district is fighting a lawsuit filed by multiple media outlets seeking the education records of Connor Betts, the Oregon District mass shooter, and the case is being fast-tracked for a quick resolution.

The Dayton Daily News and WHIO-TV, along with CNN, The New York Times and other news agencies, have sued the school district and Superintendent Doug Cozad, to compel the school district to release Betts’ records of when he was a student there prior to graduating in 2013.

Dayton Daily News, WHIO sue school district to get shooter’s records

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Former classmates have said in interviews with reporters that Betts had created a hit list and a rape list of students, had other incidents of violence and threats, and that he was suspended at Bellbrook High School for an extended period of time.

“This community and the country at large deserve to know why this tragedy happened, what might have led to it, and what may be done to prevent future tragedies,” the complaint reads as filed by the Dayton Daily News and WHIO-TV’s attorney Erin E. Rhinehart.

The question for the second appellate court in Greene County to decide, as stated in the school’s attorney Tabitha Justice’s response to the complaint — “Do the federal and state statutes that protect student records expire upon the death of the student?”

Justice contends in her response there’s “no legal authority for the proposition that those statutory protections expire upon the death of the student.”

“Respondents reasonably believed that the denial of confidential educational records during a mass media feeding frenzy would serve the public policy reasons underlying the laws making educational records confidential,” Justice’s answer reads.

Presiding over the case are Judges Jeffrey M. Welbaum, Mary E. Donovan and Michael L. Tucker.

The judges granted the motion for the case to be expedited, which condenses the typical schedule to move the case along to resolution faster.

The judges will have to decide whether oral arguments are needed. The case schedule indicates the last required filing before the potential necessity for oral arguments is Sept. 5.

WBNS-TV in Columbus has subsequently filed a separate lawsuit seeking the same release of records.