WCPO and its parent company Scripps have joined a media lawsuit seeking to compel the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District to release the records of Connor Betts, the mass shooter who killed nine people in Dayton last Sunday morning.
Scripps joined the lawsuit because it believes in fighting for open records, especially when it involves cases in which the public has a strong need to access key information.
Scripps believes the public is entitled to the records by law, but the school district has refused several public records requests.
As WCPO has reported, four former classmates of Betts, a 2013 Bellbrook High School graduate, have come forward saying they were on the gunman's "hit list" in high school.
In the lawsuit, the media outlets claim the school district had knowledge of that hit list and other threats of violence Betts made while a student.
Scripps and other media outlets believe that information may shed light on the reasons for Betts’s attack in the Oregon entertainment district. Police say Betts gunned down nine people, wounded 14 and injured more than a dozen before police shot and killed him.
“In the days following that senseless attack, the public has learned that Betts displayed troubling warning signs (or "red flags") that, perhaps if acted upon sooner, may have avoided this tragedy,” says the complaint for writ of mandamus.
“Relators seek records about those events, as well as any other incident reports, disciplinary actions and other related records.
“The 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 school district claims student records are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Ohio Student Privacy Act and has told media outlets it won’t release them except under a court order.
The lawsuit, however, states that neither act applies because Betts is deceased.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in the Second Appellate District Court of Appeals in Greene County. Relators also asked the court to expedite the case.
Others in the lawsuit include CNN, Cox Media Group, WDTN-TV2, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the New York Times Co., ABC and Associated Press.