United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Honorable Ronald E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge
pending before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion to Compel
Production of Student Records (Dkt. 21) and Plaintiff's
Motion to Amend Complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2) (Dkt.
22). Having carefully considered the record and otherwise
being fully advised, the undersigned enters the following
Memorandum Decision and Order.
Jun Yu, a citizen of the People's Republic of China, is a
former graduate student at Idaho State University
(“ISU” or “the University”) and
brings a discrimination case against the University in
violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000d et. seq. Plaintiff was one practicum
away from receiving his Ph.D in Clinical Psychology when he
was dismissed from the doctoral program. Plaintiff alleges
his rights under Title VI were violated because the
University discriminated against him due to his national
origin and he also alleges that he was denied procedural due
process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
See, generally, Complaint, Dkt. 1.
MOTION TO COMPEL
motion to compel, Plaintiff seeks the complete student
records of all students who were enrolled at the University
and pursuing a doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology
between 2008 and 2015. Plaintiff seeks these documents to prove
that his treatment as an Asian international student as
compared to non-minority students enrolled in the same
doctoral program violated Title VI standards in regard to
assessment, placement, remediation, and other academic
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) allows parties to obtain
[R]egarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any
party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of
the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake
in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties'
relative access to information, the parties' resources,
the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and
whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery
outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope
of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be
answering party fails to adequately respond to discovery
requests or fails to make a required disclosure by
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a), the propounding party can move for an
order compelling discovery under Fed. R. Civ. 37(a).
responds that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
(“FERPA”) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g(b)(2)) requires
Plaintiff to satisfy a “significantly higher
burden” to gain access to student information and
Plaintiff has not satisfied this burden because he has not
demonstrated that it would be “impossible” to
prove his case without this discovery.
other things, FERPA provides for the withholding of federal
funds from educational institutions which have policies or
engage in practices that result in the disclosure of
students' educational records or personally identifiable
information without the written consent of their parents. The
purpose of FERPA is to “assure parents of students . .
. access to their education records and to protect such
individuals' right to privacy by limiting the
transferability (and disclosure) of their records without
their consent.” Rios v. Read, 73 F.R.D. 589,
597 (E.D.N.Y. 1977) (quoting 120 Cong. Rec. S21497 (daily ed.
Dec. 13, 1974) (joint remarks of Sen. Buckley and Sen.
does not provide a privilege that prevents disclosure of
student records. Id. at 598. Rather, “by
threatening financial sanctions, it seeks to deter schools
from adopting policies of releasing student records.”
Id. Under the provisions of the statute, a school is
not subject to sanctions for disclosure of education records
covered by FERPA when such disclosure was made pursuant to
judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena. Id.;
see also 20 U.S.C. § 1232g(b)(2)(B).
“privacy violations” that result from any
disclosure of FERPA-protected education records are “no
less objectionable simply because release of the records is
obtained pursuant to judicial approval unless, before
approval is given, the party seeking disclosure is required
to demonstrate a genuine need for the information that
outweighs the privacy interests of the students.”
Rios, 73 F.R.D. at 599. A party seeking disclosure
of education records bears a “significantly heavier
burden . . . to justify disclosure than exists with respect
to discovery of other kinds of information, such as business
records.” Id. at 598. Courts have allowed
disclosure of education records when the moving party has met
this “significantly heavier burden” to show its
interests outweigh the students' privacy interests.
See, e.g., Craig v. Yale Univ. Sch. of
Med., 2012 WL 1579484, *2 (D. Conn. May 4, 2012) (court
allowed discovery of names and personnel files of all medical
school residents in the OB/GYN Residency Program who were
subjected to discipline or performance improvement plans in
plaintiff's case for discrimination on the basis of race
and color); Ragusa v. Malverne Union Free Sch.
Dist., 549 F.Supp.2d 288, 292-93 (E.D.N.Y. 2008)
(allowing disclosure of student records in a teacher's
lawsuit against school district for discrimination based on
disability, age, and national origin); Davids v. Cedar
Falls Cmty. Sch., 1998 WL 34112767, *3 (N.D. Iowa Oct.
28, 1998) (finding plaintiff's need for disclosure of
records, which would help him attempt to prove his
allegations that his school “engaged in a practice of
disparate discipline of minority and non-minority students,
” outweighed the students' privacy interests).
contends it is necessary for him to compare the progress of
individual students in ISU's doctoral program in Clinical
Psychology during the relevant period of 2008-2015 so that he
can provide his case of disparate treatment. Plaintiff argues
he must be able to compare his treatment to that of
non-minority students in the same program. The University
asserts that Plaintiff has failed to meet his heavy burden of
“impossibility” - that is, Plaintiff must show
that his claim would be impossible to prove without
the educational records he seeks. See Def.'s
Resp. (Dkt. 23), pp. 6-7 (citing to Rios v. Read, 73
F.R.D. 589, 599 (E.D.N.Y. 1977) (plaintiff had met required
showing of need by showing that “[i]f the educational
treatment of Hispanic children in Patchogue-Medford violates
Title VI standards, it nonetheless would be impossible to
provide unless the plaintiffs could trace the progress of the
individual students.”)). Courts that have followed the
Rios decision, while relying on it, have not adopted
an “impossibility” standard. Instead, the courts
have described the burden in seeking such education records
as a “heavier” one but one that is met when the
documents were relevant to the claims and ...