FERPA — the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act — has long made things difficult for student journalists, and any journalists covering educational issues. Too often schools use the pretext of protecting students’ privacy to cover up an embarassing story.
Now the Department of Education wants to amend those rules to make it even more restrictive. According to the Student Press Law Center, the new rules would require schools to deny any records requests if they think the requester has particular individuals in mind — even though the records don’t actually reveal any information about those students. According to SPLC Executive Director Frank D. LoMonte:
The Department’s proposal would require school employees to ‘read the minds’ of people requesting public documents, with the illogical result that the very same piece of paper will be an open record to one requestor and a confidential educational record to the next requestor, based on the subjective judgment of a school employee. This unmanageable patchwork rule will lead to needless delays and disputes, and will do nothing to protect any student’s legitimate privacy interests.