By Whitney Evans | July 19th, 2012
Open records could have expedited Jerry Sandusky’s recent conviction.
Recently, former FBI director Louis Freeh released findings from an investigation into the Jerry Sandusky-Penn State sex abuse story. The report issued several recommendations for preventing similar incidents in the future, but fell short of mentioning more robust open government laws in Pennsylvania, as Al Tompkins of Poynter noted.
Penn State is one of four universities exempt from the state’s open records laws.
Stronger open records laws may have allowed access to investigations into Sandusky’s behavior earlier than the decade plus it took for the the initial 1998 investigation to come to light, Tompkins wrote.
Read more on the potential impact of open records laws in the Sandusky case.
Iowa university retains documents under FERPA
In an incident involving similar restricted access to documents, the Iowa Supreme Court said even redacted sexual assault records would remain private.
The Iowa City Press Citizen requested relevant documents related to a 2007 case involving University of Iowa football players’ alleged sexual assault of a female student athlete.
The university released 18 of 3,000 documents and claimed the release of additional documents would violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
FERPA protects the personal information of students and orders financial sanctions on educational institutions that fail to comply.
The Press Citizen sued for release of additional documents and was granted release of additional documents in 2008 and 2009, although courts ordered some redacted. The university appealed.
Iowa’s Supreme Court recently ruled in the school’s favor. The Court justified its ruling with provisions from a 2009 Department of Education ruling preventing disclosure if the requester knew the identity of people in the records.
Frank LoMonte, executive director of Student Press Law Center, said this ruling went too far.
“Extremists in the U.S. Department of Education have hijacked a well-intentioned law about the confidentiality of academic records and, by their bizarre interpretations, transformed it into the Federal Education Rapists’ Protection Act,” he said, according to the Student Press Law Center.
Also check out:
- The Freeh Report
- Read more on the Iowa case here.
- The Iowa Supreme Court’s Ruling
- A friend of the court brief filed in the Iowa case by Reporter’s Committee For Freedom of the Press
- The Iowa City Press Citizen reaction to the ruling.
Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with the Society of Professional Journalists. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email – firstname.lastname@example.org – or on twitter – @whitevs7
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