Court splits over release of college transcript

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A divided panel on the Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed Ball State University’s appeal of the order that it release the transcript of a student who left the school and owes tuition. The student’s mother added the university to her petition seeking to require her ex-husband to contribute to their child’s college expenses.

Jennifer Irons filed the petition for modification in May 2011, seeking in part an order that Scott Irons contribute to daughter Jordan Iron’s college expenses at Ball State. She attended the school in the fall of 2011 but withdrew in early 2012, leaving an unpaid tuition balance. Jordan is unable to enroll at another college because Ball State will not release her transcript until the tuition is paid.

Jennifer Irons added the school to the complaint because the trial court was unable to fully adjudicate the issues, as future college expenses couldn’t be completely determined until Jordan enrolled at Indiana University Northwest.

Ball State sought to dismiss with prejudice the claim against it, arguing Jordan had no right to her transcript unless she paid the balance on her tuition. The trial court, noting this is an issue of first impression, ordered the university to release the transcript. Lake Circuit Judge George C. Paras also wrote in the order that the Legislature hasn’t created a statutory lien that would allow the university to withhold a transcript for failure to pay tuition.

Ball State appealed, but Jennifer Irons claimed that the order was interlocutory and the university had to have the order certified. Ball State claimed it properly filed the appeal under Ind. App. Rule 14(A).

“We conclude that the order does not fall under Appellate Rule 14(A)(3). The delivery of Jordan’s official transcript does not ‘import a surrender’ as contemplated by the rule. Whether the delivery disposes of all claims and relief sought against BSU does not determine whether a surrender has occurred,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the majority, which includes Judge Robb. “Giving Jennifer a copy of Jordan’s official transcript does not remove the official transcript from BSU’s control.”

“Although BSU did not have a right to appeal the trial court’s order compelling the delivery of the transcript under Appellate Rule 14(A)(3), it could have asked the trial court to certify the order for an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Appellate Rule 14(B). Because BSU failed to have the order properly certified, we must dismiss this appeal,” he wrote in Ball State University v. Jennifer Irons, In re the Marriage of: Jennifer Irons, Wife, and Scott Irons, Husband, 45A03-1307-DR-296.

Judge Elaine Brown dissented on this issue, believing that the order does constitute an interlocutory appeal of right – either under Rule 14(A)(3) or Appellate Rule 14(A)(8).

“BSU is not simply appealing a discovery order which requires parties to a lawsuit to produce documents which could be used as evidence at trial. The appealed order is a dispositive order as to BSU as it serves to dispose of all claims and relief sought against BSU,” she wrote.

The judges all agreed that Jennifer Irons should be denied appellate attorney fees.


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