Attorney General rules WKU violated Open Records Act


Emma Austin

WKU has violated the Kentucky Open Records Act by denying requests from the College Heights Herald and the Kentucky Kernel, the student newspaper at the University of Kentucky, according to a decision by the Kentucky attorney general.

A Kernel reporter sent a request to WKU last year on Oct. 18 “to obtain all investigative records for all Title IX investigations into sexual misconduct allegations levied against university employees in the past five years.” The Herald followed suit and made a similar request on Nov. 1.

WKU denied both requests, citing the Kentucky Revised Statutes exceptions to the Open Records Act which allow a public agency to withhold certain records. WKU conducted 20 Title IX investigations over the past five years; nine of whom were faculty and 11 staff members.

According to Andrea Anderson, assistant general counsel for WKU, in a response to the records requests, six of the 20 investigations resulted in a finding of a WKU policy violation.

Both records request denials were appealed in November; WKU maintained each of the six employees in question resigned or retired from their respective positions prior to any final action by WKU, which “did not result in the adoption of the preliminary records as the basis for final action at WKU, and therefore those records did not lose their preliminary status and therefore need not be disclosed.”

WKU also argued releasing the records would violate the personal privacy of students involved. On Nov. 29, the Attorney General’s office requested copies of the records involved from WKU, which WKU denied.

The office then requested redacted copies of the records withheld “but only to protect the names and personal identifiers of students.”

WKU responded that “merely redacting student names and personal identifiers of students would not be sufficient to protect the identity of student reporting parties or witnesses who should be afforded privacy under both federal and state law.”

The attorney general’s office also ruled on Monday that Kentucky State University violated the open records law by failing to turn over investigations into sexual misconduct allegations against university employees, according to WDRB.

KSU refused to provide records also citing the privacy of the victims and did not allow the attorney general’s office to look at the records.

The attorney general issued an opinion that WKU must make “immediate provision” for the student reporters who filed the requests to “inspect and copy the disputed records with the exception of names and personal identifiers of the complainant and witnesses.” WKU may appeal this decision to the Warren County Circuit Court.

Reporter Emma Austin can be reached at 270-745-0655 and [email protected]