Posts Tagged ‘FERPA’


Jerry Sandusky investigation and University of Iowa sexual assault details kept secret

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.

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FOI DAILY DOSE: ESPN sues Ohio State, Kundra talks top transparency principles

ESPN suing Ohio State for records withholding

ESPN has sued The Ohio State University for withholding records regarding an NCAA investigation into its football program.

The suit, filed Monday, accuses the university of breaking state public records law, according to The Associated Press. ESPN wants the Ohio Supreme Court to force OSU to release the requested public records and cover court fees.

The university allegedly cited a federal student-records privacy law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, that wasn’t applicable in this situation when it denied ESPN access to various records.

Requested records included emails between former Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel, who resigned in May, and a mentor to former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor, according to the Columbus Post-Dispatch’s buckeyeXtra.com.

FERPA is designed to ensure student educational records remain confidential, but it is often misused to wrongfully keep records private. SPJ’s online Reporter’s Guide to FERPA has more information on dealing with records roadblocks and related issues.

Vivek Kundra lays out his key points on open government

Vivek Kundra, the Federal Chief Information Officer, testified before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Thursday on government transparency issues.

In his testimony, Kundra mentioned 10 key principles for transparency that he said would serve as helpful guidelines in assessing the federal government’s $3.7 trillion budget.

Kundra’s major points included the importance of using common data standards and ensuring equal access to data.

For more, read Kundra’s entire testimony. You can also see his 10 principles listed without the extra information in this Sunlight Foundation blog post.

Kundra plans to leave his government position in August for a Harvard University Fellowship.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).


 

Wyoming Tribune Eagle overcomes restraining order, publishes details about botched college trip

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle published an article Wednesday about a 2008 Laramie County Community College trip to Costa Rica. It was revealed that a participating student was on the verge of committing suicide and wasn’t properly counseled.

It wasn’t easy trying to publish details about the lack of chaperone training and medical waivers. The newspaper received a copy of the 16-page internal report from an anonymous source last week, and LCCC responded to the publication by seeking and obtaining a temporary restraining order.

A Tuesday court decision dissolved the restraining order, and the Society of Professional Journalists released a statement Wednesday applauding the decision, stating that the press’ role in reporting vital information to the public will be maintained.

During the 2008 trip, a student displayed suicidal behavior and wasn’t properly cared for, according to the school’s mental health response team. One of the chaperones in question is LCCC President Darrel Hammon.

LCCC was concerned that published articles would violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, which protects the privacy of parents and students by keeping education records confidential.

Press rights and open government advocates, on the other hand, saw this as a slap in the face to the Wyoming press’ First Amendment rights.

The Tribune Eagle didn’t publish student names, and according to the article, the LCCC CARE Team’s two-page summary and recommendations did not identify anyone by name.

LCCC is a public institution, and taxpayers have the right to know what is happening in their schools. This lack of school transparency breeds public distrust, and to cover for LCCC administration and the fact they suffered from a complete breakdown of policy is shameful.

The Tribune Eagle has placed power in the hands of the public to make sure school travel policies are constantly being updated and changed.

April Dudash is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern. Reach her at adudash@spj.org.

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