After Ohio State police reported three sexual assaults in one dorm this semester, The Lantern talked with police and student life officials about the assaults. Both offices declined to say whether disciplinary action had been taken by the school, citing FERPA and HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Source: The Lantern, 3 sex crimes reported in Park-Stradley this semester (Nov. 26, 2012).
Former SPLC Attorney Advocate Adam Goldstein: When you have law enforcement and student life citing HIPAA as a reason to withhold information, you’re off to a bad start. HIPAA only applies to organizations primarily in the business of providing health care and certain types of billing companies they work with. In other words, HIPAA never applies to anything law enforcement or student life ever does, ever, at all. The fact that Ohio State officials would cite HIPAA here shows that not only don’t they intend to comply with open records law, they don’t even respect The Lantern enough to come up with a coherent lie to hide behind.
It’s not that surprising, then, that their FERPA explanation is completely bogus, too. The Lantern’s request wasn’t even for a record, let alone a record that would make a student identifiable. At worst, it was a request for information that might suggest the existence of unspecified records about unidentified individuals who may or may not even be students.
And while this isn’t directly about FERPA, I can’t let Chief Denton or University Life spokesman Isaacs off the hook for some of the absolutely bone-chilling things they do manage to say about the situation in Park-Stradley Hall.
Denton is quoted as saying that the victim and suspect in the Nov. 21 case were “casually acquainted,” but that the crimes didn’t appear to pose an ongoing threat to the campus community. Chief, what are you trying to say when you say that the victim and suspect were “casually acquainted?” That there’s no ongoing threat because the suspect was only acquainted with one other person? That acquaintance rapes, which may make up as many as 80-85 percent of all rapes, are somehow less of a threat?
Look, chief, I don’t know how many rapes it takes for you to start getting nervous, but for me, it’s one. One rape is when I start worrying about the risks posed to the campus community. At about the third rape, saying there’s no ongoing threat sounds like madness.
It doesn’t matter that the crimes are unrelated. The entire theory behind the Clery act was that, if Jeanne Clery had been warned about the thefts on campus, she’d have taken precautionary measures that could have stopped her rape and murder. Again, it doesn’t matter that you think the three rapes are isolated. If you warn students about a pattern of rape, even if the perpetrators change, students take precautionary measures. That’s the whole concept of the Clery Act. And you’re doing it wrong.
Speaking of precautionary measures, Isaacs is quoted as saying, among other things, that “we have extensive offerings in self-protection.” Are you kidding me? Are you even serious? So Ohio State doesn’t think it’s important to warn students that there have been a series of rapes in the building, but hey, if it upsets them when they find out, they can take krav maga? That’s Ohio State’s plan to reduce sexual assault on campus? This is the best idea you’ve had so far?
Since the Buckeyes can’t go to a bowl this year anyway, can we deploy the defensive linemen to Park-Stradley? Hey, say what you will about that idea, but it’s better than, “if you find out about the rapes and they make you nervous, study Kung Fu.”
We rate this: not protected by FERPA at all