Tennessee, New Jersey lawmakers debate access to student records

The Tennessee and New Jersey senates are both considering bills that will affect public access to student information.

But that is where the similarities stop.

A New Jersey Senate bill would prohibit the release of any information about anyone under the age of 18 without written consent from the minor’s parents or legal guardian, unless individual municipalities passed laws to the contrary. Senate bill 642 is in its second reading in the senate and will be up for vote in the near future.

Sen. Pete Inverso, R-Mercer, proposed the bill after a candidate for a local office obtained names and addresses of children in a town recreation program and sent campaign literature to their homes.

Opponents say that this bill could violate newspapers’ First Amendment rights and, by limiting access to student information, could effectively prevent them from printing honor rolls and athletics box scores, among other news items, unless they receive parental consent.

Supporters argue that the children’s privacy and the parents’ knowledge about what information is disseminated are more important.

A Tennessee Senate bill would amend the state student privacy law so that campus courts will be allowed to disclose the final results of disciplinary hearings. This would bring campus courts into full compliance with federal law. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act allows universities to release the final outcomes of campus disciplinary actions, although it does not require that they do so.

Senate bill 0272, sponsored by Sen. Tim Burchett, R-7, was filed for introduction Feb. 6 and is now in the education committee.