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NEWS RELEASE: Award recognizes Central Florida college journalists for bucking aggressive campus secrecy tactics

(10/24/16 5:45pm)

The editors and staff of Knight News at the University of Central Florida were presented Oct. 22 with the annual College Press Freedom Award, in recognition of their extraordinary determination in pursuing disclosure of public records in the face of brutal attacks by their university.

Maryland AG: Colleges can't use FERPA to conceal discipline of sexual assaults

(04/02/10 6:54pm)

It's understandable when colleges use their confidential in-house disciplinary systems to afford a "do-over" to a student who violates a campus rule (say, yelling profanities at a professor) or commits a minor, victimless offense (say, sneaking a six-pack into the dorm). Such behavior would never result in a criminal charge if it happened at an off-campus apartment, and it seems inequitable to inflict a permanent scar on a young person's record because he happens to live in Ivy Hall instead of Ivy Apartments. But if this much is true, then the converse also is true, and it is likewise inequitable to give a free pass to a person accused of a violent offense carrying potential felony charges just because the offender was "lucky" enough to attack someone on campus. Campus disciplinary bodies operate almost entirely in secret, thanks to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA"), the federal confidentiality law that protects against disclosure of students' educational records.

The good news: DOE is moving on FERPA. The bad news: It might be moving in reverse.

(04/30/10 3:42pm)

The federal privacy regime governing student records is badly broken, perhaps beyond repair. Schools and colleges don't understand -- or choose not to understand -- where legitimate student privacy interests end and where the public's interest in disclosure begins, and too often reject journalists' valid information requests by raising bogus confidentiality claims.

A plea for restoring common sense to out-of-control federal secrecy laws

(05/11/10 5:37pm)

It's no secret that FERPA is out of control. Enacted in 1974, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act aimed to protect the confidentiality of students' "educational records." But today, thanks to over-broad definitions, coupled with the Draconian threat of cutting universities' federal funding if violated, the law is causing universities to consistently err on the side of secrecy, keeping information of public interest hidden under a misplaced redaction bar. In the May 14 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, the SPLC's Frank LoMonte tackles the current state of FERPA's rampant misuse, highlighting some of the most extreme applications of the federal law that student and professional journalists alike have run into, and pointing out the irrational interpretations of "education records." Despite the dire state of the law -- a law that admittedly has the well-intentioned goal of preventing disclosure of students' private academic information -- it's not too late to turn it around.

FERPA abuse reaches new extremes with unconstitutional restraint against Wyoming newspaper

(05/22/10 11:02pm)

Despite eighty years of contrary U.S. Supreme Court precedent, a Wyoming judge has restrained a newspaper from publishing lawfully obtained information about a local college -- on the grounds of the college's bogus claim of "student privacy." The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that Laramie County District Judge Peter G.

FSU-NCAA case is a touchdown for transparency, a fumble for FERPA fundamentalists

(05/26/10 1:52am)

It's becoming increasingly difficult for colleges to argue with a straight face that the federal student privacy law prevents them from honoring their duty to disclose newsworthy public records they'd prefer to keep hidden. The Florida Supreme Court's decision Monday to decline review of a lower-court ruling -- which declared that NCAA documents shared with, and used by, Florida State University are subject to disclosure under Florida's open-records law -- reaffirms that government documents may not be withheld from public view just because the documents incidentally mention college students. The dispute involved a request by the Associated Press and other news organizations for documents relating to allegations that several Florida State employees afforded preferential academic treatment to student-athletes.