• Key point. Many courts have ruled that a church school's policy of not releasing academic transcripts to former students who have not paid their school bill cannot be applied to a student who has declared bankruptcy since doing so would violate the right of a bankrupt debtor to be free from attempts to recover debts.
A bankruptcy court in Arizona ruled that a Catholic high school could not withhold a former student's academic transcript as a result of her failure to pay her school bill. A student attended a Catholic high school for her sophomore year and part of her junior year. She transferred to a public high school but her parents failed to pay a $1,000 balance owed to the Catholic high school. During her senior year, her parents asked the Catholic high school for her academic transcript which was required for her graduation. The school refused, and informed the parents that the transcript would not be released until the school bill was paid. The student's parents, who recently had declared bankruptcy, sought a court order compelling the Catholic school to release the transcript. They argued that one of the protections of bankruptcy is protection from any attempts by creditors to recover their debts, and this protection was violated by the school's refusal to release the transcript until the school debt was paid. The Catholic school argued that an educational institution has a right to withhold a student's transcripts if the student has not met his or her financial obligations. The school also argued that any court order compelling the school to turn over the transcript would create a "substantial burden on the exercise of religious rights" in violation of the first amendment.