Bill would increase access to non-academic school records
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Campus disciplinary board proceedings and decisions in cases where students have been accused of criminal acts would no longer be considered “academic” records subject to existing privacy laws, under a bill introduced in mid-February by Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
The Accuracy in Campus Crime Reporting Act of 1997 would also open campus police or security logs and requires that annual reports on crime from colleges receiving federal funds will be compiled into an annual report by the Department of Education. Such schools are already required to submit crime reports, but there is no central repository and the statistics are not analyzed.
The bill specifies what infractions should be reported as crimes so that reports submitted by campuses would be consistent even though campuses do not always categorize offenses by students in the same way.
The measure would prohibit campus administrators from invoking the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act — commonly known as the Buckley Amendment — to shield information involving criminal behavior. The Buckley Amendment was enacted to protect “educational” information about students, and many campus administrators have defined that term broadly to include information about criminal behavior by students.
The new bill requires that the public crime log detail the nature, date, time and general location of each incident, including thefts. Thefts do not have to be included in reports Congress currently requires on campus crimes.
The bill also requires that information about citations and arrests be public within 24 hours unless disclosure would clearly jeopardize an investigation. Names of sexual assault victims and juvenile suspects would be protected according to state laws.
Colleges which do not comply with the openness requirements would be fined a minimum of one percent of the federal funds provided to them.
Congress enacted the Student Right-To-Know & Campus Security Act in 1990 to require that campuses publish crime statistics and it passed the Buckley Amendment Clarification in 1992 to make clear that campus law enforcement records were not afforded the confidentiality protection of an education record.
However, neither measure successfully stopped campuses from channeling criminal matters to confidential disciplinary hearings. In 1996 the House unanimously passed a resolution that the Department of Education was not adequately enforcing compliance with campus crime laws. (H.R. 715)