Montana student recognized for resisting school’s cover-up of athletes’ grades

Will Meyer is grateful for the Student Free Press Award that he received in the Montana High School Better Newspaper contest, but the sting of the censorship battle that prompted his recognition remains.Meyer, who will begin his tenure as editor-in-chief of Bozeman High School's Hawk Talk in August,  was recognized for fighting to prevent administrative censorship of the newspaper, after the principal prohibited the staff from running the complete version of a story that listed the average GPAs of school athletic teams.In what Meyer called "one of the most interesting things the paper did all year," the administration stopped the newspaper from printing the average GPAs that fell below 3.0, which Meyer said only made the school look like it had something to hide.Meyer's experience highlights the abuse of administrative power that is all too common with prior-review regimes that are trying to maintain a polished image for their schools.But Meyer, who was sports editor at the time of the story's publication, said the staff didn't have an agenda when writing the article, and its publication wasn't intended toe embarrass the school.

A plea for restoring common sense to out-of-control federal secrecy laws

It's no secret that FERPA is out of control. Enacted in 1974, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act aimed to protect the confidentiality of students' "educational records." But today, thanks to over-broad definitions, coupled with the Draconian threat of cutting universities' federal funding if violated, the law is causing universities to consistently err on the side of secrecy, keeping information of public interest hidden under a misplaced redaction bar.In the May 14 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, the SPLC's Frank LoMonte tackles the current state of FERPA's rampant misuse, highlighting some of the most extreme applications of the federal law that student and professional journalists alike have run into, and pointing out the irrational interpretations of "education records."Despite the dire state of the law -- a law that admittedly has the well-intentioned goal of preventing disclosure of students' private academic information -- it's not too late to turn it around.