Television station sues University of Missouri system for violating open-records act

MISSOURI — A Fox affiliate television station in KansasCity filed a lawsuit against the University of Missouri SystemBoard of Curators and several other university officials in Januaryfor not disclosing certain campus disciplinary records requestedby a reporter last fall. In the lawsuit, WDAF/Fox 4 claims that the university’s lawyer,Marvin Wright, intentionally violated the state open-records actby barring Fox reporter David Schechter from obtaining informationabout the outcome of disciplinary proceedings involving violentcrime and nonforcible sex offenses that occurred on campus between1996 and 1999. The complaint alleges that Wright denied the requestbecause he said it did not fall under the Missouri Sunshine Law.

A circuit court in Springfield ruled in January 1999 that SouthwestMissouri State University had to release similar records to astudent journalist under the state sunshine law. The media’s claim is based on changes made by Congress in 1998to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known asthe Buckley Amendment, which regulates the release of educationrecords. The 1998 amendment allows schools to release the outcomesof disciplinary proceedings involving crimes of violence and nonforciblesex offenses when a student is found guilty of such an offense.Schechter was collecting information for a story on campus crime,and with the exception of the University of Missouri system, allother public colleges and universities contacted in Missouri andKansas sent Fox the requested information. The university system filed a response to the suit on March 17,and a court date has not yet been set.