Are students' parking tickets public records?
There is ongoing debate about what student information universities can share with parents, authorities, journalists and others. Universities have the power to call your parents if you get caught drinking in the dorms or if they are concerned about your health and safety. If you are a tax-dependent, your parents can get a copy of your grades. Pretty much everything else is private.
But what about parking tickets? (And we all know colleges are notorious for handing out reams of citations-- and college students are notorious for parking where they should not.)
Oklahoma State University handed out more than 18,000 tickets between Aug. 1 and April 9. A reporter at the Daily O'Collegian student newspaper wanted to know which students were getting those tickets and filed a request for a database of student parking violations, the Daily O'Collegian reported.
Two weeks later, university officials responded. While they could provide general violation statistics, they would not disclose the names of students. An attorney for the university told the student newspaper that parking tickets are confidential educational records, which are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
The same thing happened to a request for parking ticket info at the University of Oklahoma, The Oklahoman reported. "We are governed not by commentators in the press," OU General Counsel Anil Golahalli reportedly told the newspaper. "We are governed by the Department of Education and how it interprets FERPA."
But several open records attorneys and experts disagree with that interpretation, both papers reported. And several of them pointed to a 1997 Maryland appellate court ruling that found University of Maryland parking tickets were public records.
That case came up when The Diamondback student newspaper learned that a University of Maryland basketball played had allegedly racked up "285 parking violations, many for parking in handicapped spaces, and more than $8,000 in unpaid parking fines," requested the records and was denied, the Daily O'Collegian reported.
The Maryland Court of Appeals later ruled that FERPA was not intended to "preclude the release of any record simply because the record contained the name of a student," the paper reported.
"The federal statute was obviously intended to keep private those aspects of a student's educational life that relate to academic status as a student," the court said. "Prohibiting disclosure of any document containing a student's name would allow universities to operate in secret, which would be contrary to one of the policies behind the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act."
What do you think?
May 10, 2010; 11:22 AM ET
Categories: Campus Media | Tags: Oklahoma State University, University of Maryland, University of Oklahoma
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