PUBLIC RECORDS -- STUDENTS -- TRANSCRIPT OF GRADES & CREDITS -- STATE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION -- DESTRUCTION -- ALTERATION -- REMOVAL -- INSPECTION -- BOARD OF TRUSTEES
1. Student at state college of education cannot demand removal or destruction of Registrar's transcript of his grades or credits.
2. Inspection of such transcript is subject to regulation by Board of Trustees of such college.
3. Alteration of such transcript also subject to regulation by Board of Trustees.
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June 1, 1953
Mr. Forrest Sloan
Eastern Washington College of Education
Cheney, Washington Cite as: AGO 53-55 No. 61
We have received your letter of May 22, 1953, requesting the opinion of this office on questions relating to the record or transcript of a student's marks on file with the Registrar of Eastern Washington College of Education. Your questions are:
1. Can a student require the destruction or removal from the Registrar's office of his transcript?
2. Can the Registrar prevent inspection of such a transcript by faculty members, even if the student withdraws his candidacy for a degree?
3. Can such a transcript be altered by the Registrar, either on his own authority or that of his superiors, if no honest error is involved?
In our opinion the answer to your first question is "No." Your second and third questions are not answered by any specific provision of law; and should be referred to the Board of Trustees of the college, which has the authority to regulate inspection and alteration of such transcripts.
1. RCW 28.81.020 provides that the government of a state college of education shall be vested in a board of trustees. By RCW 28.81.050 the board of trustees [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] is empowered to adopt bylaws for the government of the school, prescribe the duties of its officers and employees, issue certificates of graduation or diplomas and grant teachers' certificates, grant bachelors' degrees to those completing a four-year course of study and masters' degrees for a year of graduate study, and to
"* * * do anything reasonably implied from the powers granted and necessarily implied from their office;"
The maintenance of accurate records of marks and credits earned is essential to the determination of eligibility for the various degrees and certificates which the Board may grant. Such records are not specifically required by statute, but are authorized as a necessary incident to the duties of the Board.
Transcripts would fall within the definition of RCW 40.12.050 (2), as comprising
"Office files and memoranda, to include * * * documents and reports made for the internal administration of the office to which they pertain but not required by law to be filed or kept by such agency;"
RCW 40.12.040 established a committee, which has the duty to
" * * * determine what records shall be authorized to be destroyed."
RCW 40.12.050 provides that this committee has power to authorize destruction of records and to fix the time during which they shall be preserved, upon request of the agency involved. The direct inference from these provisions is that records are to be preserved until their destruction is authorized by the committee. The committee would doubtless give considerable weight to the recommendation of the Board of Trustees concerning the transcripts in question. Preservation of transcripts for some time after the graduation or withdrawal of a student would not seem unreasonable. We conclude that a student has no right to demand removal or destruction of his transcript, and that such a demand should be refused.
2. It is the general rule that public records are open to the inspection of any person who has a real and personal interest in their content. In the present case, the rule is subject to a further qualification: that the Board of Trustees may impose such restrictions as they deem reasonable and necessary, pursuant to the authority of RCW 28.81.050. Whether or not a particular person could inspect a transcript would be a question for the decision of that board. The same reasoning has been applied to an analagous situation in the attached opinion of April 4, 1951, to the Supervisor of Public Institutions [[Opinion No. 51-53-3]].
3. RCW 40.16.020 provides a penalty for any officer who erases or falsifies any record or paper appertaining to his office. RCW 40.16.010 provides a [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] penalty for any person who wilfully and unlawfully alters a record in a public office. We do not believe that the registrar of a college of education is a public officer within the meaning of these statutes, but the statutes are a clear declaration of public policy. As such they may be considered by the Board of Trustees in passing upon the question presented. We assume from your letter that at present your institution has no fixed regulation concerning alteration of transcripts. We believe that the Board of Trustees can and should settle this question by promulgation of a bylaw or regulation, under the authority of RCW 28.81.050.
We conclude that the questions posed by your second and third inquiries should be presented to the Board of Trustees for determination.
Very truly yours,
A. J. HUTTON, JR.
Assistant Attorney General