Earlier this month, a performance of “The Laramie Project” at the University of Mississippi was interrupted by members of the audience who yelled gay slurs throughout the play, which is about the murder of a gay student at the University of Wyoming.
After The Daily Mississippian reported on the incident, staff at the university organized a mandatory “dialogue session” aimed at preventing similar incidents in the future. The Daily Mississippian sent two photographers and a reporter to attend and report on the Tuesday meeting, but were told by Danny Blanton, the school’s director of public relations, that “attending the meeting and photographing or interviewing anyone who attended” would violate FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Source: The Daily Mississippian, Mandatory dialogue session for ‘The Laramie Project’ attendees. (Oct. 9, 2013)
SPLC Attorney Advocate Adam Goldstein: No. Just, no. That’s the short version.
You want the long version? Fine.
This is so stupid a misuse of FERPA that it would have to be twice as smart as it is to rise to the level of being merely wrong.
FERPA is about education records. Education records are defined as those records maintained by the institution that are directly related to a student.
Here, there are no records yet. When those records would be created, they would be in the possession of students. The records would not be, and could not be, education records, even if the camera had a flux capacitor and was capable of transmitting the pictures back in time so that there was even a record in existence to wrongly invoke FERPA about.
Furthermore, FERPA regulates the activities of school employees and agents. Nothing a non-employee student can do on his or her own can violate anyone’s FERPA rights, ever.
So, Director of Public Relations Danny Blanton, you took a law that was inapplicable to the group of people you were addressing, applied to records it doesn’t cover and that don’t even exist, and used that to avoid any pictures of your mandatory don’t-be-a-bigot session.
(This isn’t really part of the FERPA stuff, but is requiring people to show up to what is essentially a class the best idea you’ve had for how to stop people yelling bigoted stuff at Ole Miss? You give everybody in the room detention, basically? I wouldn’t go to Ole Miss just because I don’t want to accidentally be in the room when someone else is a bigot and says something and ends up screwing up my Thursday night plans. Because, come on, the odds of there not being a bigot in an auditorium in Mississippi feels kind of remote.)
Is this what they taught you at Ole Miss? When there’s absolutely no right to get the thing you want, make stuff up out of thin air? And it’s not even a good lie. That’s the kicker. Lying is selfish, but using stupid lies is disrespectful.
Can somebody at Ole Miss please hold a mandatory reeducation session for Danny Blanton on the evils of dumb lies? I promise not to take pictures.
Even though FERPA wouldn’t apply.
We rate this: Not protected by FERPA at all