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Judge Sides With University In Legal Fight With Student Newspaper

The William T. Young Library on the campus of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky.
The William T. Young Library on the campus of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky.

The judge presiding over an open records fight between the University of Kentucky and its own student newspaper, The Kentucky Kernel, has sided with the university.

In his Tuesday ruling, Fayette Circuit Court Judge Thomas Clark agreed with the University of Kentucky that there is no way to release investigative documents without compromising the identities of the alleged victims, two graduate students who allege their professor sexually harassed and assaulted them. Clark also ruled that such documents fall under the federal privacy law that protects student records.

The details of the case are complicated and highlight how the confidentiality guaranteed by university-run Title IX investigations can sometimes impede justice.

The Kentucky Kernelhad been seeking findings from the investigation. The accused professor left the university before investigators could present their findings.

The school only handed over some of the investigative documents but not all of them, citing student privacy.

In a video statement, University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said he was grateful for Tuesday's ruling.

"This is going to be helpful because I think it will encourage people to report, give us a greater opportunity through a process that ensures fairness for both the accused and those that are making the allegation that we can adjudicate these cases," he said.

The Kernel's Editor-in-Chief Marjorie Kirk said despite the ruling, she's isn't backing down.

"I'm still proud of the work that my staff did to pursue these stories and to help out with this litigation, and so while I was disappointed that the judge didn't see that, I think the public is definitely in support of this and so I'm still encouraged to pursue the truth and pursue good journalism," she said.

Kirk told NPR that they will appeal the decision.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.