Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Utah's Right to Know
Donald Meyers
Donald W. Meyers writes about open-government issues for The Salt Lake Tribune. He is also the site manager of utahsright.com, the Tribune's online database of public records. He is also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists' National Freedom of Information Committee and sits on the board of directors of the Utah Foundation for Open Government.

» E-mail

» Twitter: @donaldwmeyers

» Subscribe (RSS)




Oklahoma State’s handling of sex offender earns it a ‘Black Hole’ from SPJ

Oklahoma State University’s decision to not tell police or students about a serial sex offender on campus earned it the national Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) Black Hole award for 2013.

SPJ, the nation’s largest and broadest-based journalism association, gives out the award to government entities that flagrantly violate the public’s right to know. The award was announced Friday morning.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

(Disclosure: As a member of SPJ’s national Freedom of Information Committee, I served as one of the judges for the Black Hole award.)

In the case of Oklahoma State, the university had received complaints that a student sexually assaulted several fraternity members. However, instead of calling police or notifying students about a possible sexual predator in their midst, the university quietly handled the issue in a closed-door administrative proceeding.

University officials maintained that they could not disclose information about the assaults because it would violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the law that was intended to keep academic records such as transcripts and report cards from being disclosed publicly.

The U.S. Department of Education has clearly stated that FERPA cannot be used as an excuse to not notify police about a crime on campus, or to warn students about potential danger.

But emails obtained by the Associated Press revealed that administrators were more concerned about how the scandal would affect the school’s reputation than they were about student privacy.

Oklahoma State was nominated by Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

"It’s really significant that SPJ has recognized a serial abuser of FERPA," LoMonte said. "This spotlights a problem with FERPA."

LoMonte noted that Oklahoma State has classified student parking tickets as FERPA-protected documents, allowing it to deny access to journalists looking into parking issues on campus. The university was also censured for classifying a sexual assault as a burglary on a campus crime report required under the Clery Act.

Oklahoma State joins The Wisconsin, Georgia and Utah legislatures, and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services as a national Black Hole recipient. Utah received the first-ever national Black Hole award for its passage of HB477, a bill that would have gutted the Government Records Access and Management Act.

Public outcry, along with the national publicity from the award, led the Legislature to repeal HB477.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
 
Jobs
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.