Tenn. lawmakers reintroduce bill requiring disclosure of campus crime records

TENNESSEE — Two state legislators havereintroduced a bill requiring colleges and universities to release certainstudent disciplinary records.Senate Bill 2098 was brought before theSenate Education Committee on Jan. 28 for debate and a vote. The bill passedunanimously in committee and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tim Burchett,R-Knoxville, said it should reach the Senate floor within a week. Rep. HarryBrooks, R-Knoxville, sponsored the bill in the House.Under thelegislation, Tennessee public colleges and universities would be required torelease the final results of investigations into violent crimes or nonforciblesex offenses, information concerning a student who is a registered sex offenderand information concerning a student’s violation of any law or rulegoverning the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance. But thedisclosure of student information must still be in compliance with the FamilyEducational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that imposes financialpenalties against schools that release certain student educational recordswithout consent.Legislators hope the bill will raise awareness ofviolent crimes committed on Tennessee college campuses.Burchett said asimilar bill he sponsored passed last May, but the language only allowed highereducation institutions to release the records, it did not require them to,according to a subsequent ruling by the Tennessee attorney general.”[The first bill] didn’t do what our attorneys told us itwould do,” Burchett said.The new bill, he said, clarifies theintent of the law. Burchett said he changed the language of the bill to make itstronger. In drafting the new bill, Burchett said he consulted the attorneygeneral and the bill was drafted with his input.Burchett said, in thepast, universities have tried to use FERPA as justification for not reportingthe results of student disciplinary proceedings.”[The bill] isimportant because we have students who are committing serious crimes and thebureaucrats at these universities try to keep it quiet to keep attendanceup,” Burchett said. A 1998 amendment to FERPA permits — butdoes not require — schools to release the final results of disciplinaryproceedings of students found responsible for violent crimes and nonforcible sexoffenses. A recent study by the Student Press Law Center found that fewer than20 percent of schools surveyed release student records under theamendment.S. Daniel Carter, vice president of Security on Campus, acampus safety watchdog group, said the bill is important forstudents.”Students deserve to know if they are sharing their classor dorm room with someone who has been found responsible for committing aviolent act,” Carter said.

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