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Court Rules In Lawsuit Filed By Florida Adjunct: Colleges Must Identify Students Who File Complaints About Teachers

The identity of students who submit complaints about teachers to public schools, including colleges and universities, are public records and must be disclosed to citizens, a Florida appellate court ruled Thursday.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said Gainesville-based Santa Fe College must release the name of a student who sent the school an email complaining about former math instructor Darnell Rhea’s classroom performance.

“Hot diggity dog,” said Rhea, who doesn’t have a lawyer and argued the case himself, when he learned of the decision from The Associated Press. “This is amazing.”

The appellate panel unanimously agreed with Rhea’s argument that the student’s name is not covered by state and federal laws granting confidentiality to education records because such complaints don’t directly relate to students.

Instead, they directly relate to teachers but only tangentially to complaining students, District Judge Stephanie Ray wrote for the panel.

“To me, it’s just un-American that you don’t have a right to know who your accuser is,” Rhea said by phone from his home in Melrose.

A lawyer for the college did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

“A citizen’s right to public records is a fundamental constitutional right

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