Tenn. public colleges must release names of students punished for sexual or violent offenses

TENNESSEE — Gov. Phil Bredesen signed a bill in Maythat will require the state’s public universities and colleges to make sex andviolent crime information available.Under the amendment to the Tennesseeopen-records law, sponsored by Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, and Sen. TimBurchett, R-Knoxville, public schools must release the names of students who aredisciplined for committing a violent crime or sex offense, along with thesanction imposed on them. This information used to be considered studenteducation records, which are exempt from disclosure under the statelaw.The law now goes a step beyond federal law by taking advantage of aprovision in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which states thatuniversities and colleges may release the names of perpetrators of certaincrimes. Under FERPA, a school can lose its federal funding if it has apolicy or practice of permitting the release of students’ “education records”without receiving consent. FERPA, also known as the Buckley Amendment, wasamended in 1998 to allow, but not require, the release of the outcome ofdisciplinary proceedings where a student is found responsible for behavior thatwould constitute a crime of violence or nonforcible sex offense. Now publicschools in Tennessee will have to release the information.”Prior tothese changes, state law had continued to restrict the disclosure of this typeof student disciplinary information at state schools,” according to S. DanielCarter, senior vice president of Security on Campus, a Pennsylvania-basedadvocacy organization. Private schools had been able to release the informationas FERPA permits and will still be able to disclose it, but it is not mandatory.Private schools are not required to comply with the state open-recordslaw.Carter said it has not yet been determined whether the legislation,which goes into effect on August 10, will require disclosure of past studentrecords. Carter said most likely, records will not be disclosed that are datedbefore FERPA was amended in 1998.One of the bill’s sponsors plans tosubmit a query to the state attorney general requesting clarification on how farback the reporting requirements will reach, according to Carter.The lawalso requires that parents of a student under 21 must be informed if the studentis found responsible for violating a federal, state, local or school regulationgoverning the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance.