District ordered to release phone records in ex-Cottonwood coach's case
Granite School District was ordered to release records of its investigation of former Cottonwood High football coach Josh Lyman's alleged "inappropriate relationship" with a female student.
The State Records Committee ruled Thursday that The Salt Lake Tribune reporter Bill Oram was entitled to receive phone records showing the number of text messages between Lyman and the student as well as all but one witness statement. The board voted 3-2 to hold back that one record because its release could identify the student who made it.
Oram requested the information in May, shortly before Lyman resigned and the school district closed its probe. Granite denied the request, citing the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as well as concerns that the girls interviewed in the investigation could be subjected to retribution from Lyman's supporters.
Oram said he sought the records to understand the full story behind the accusations behind Lyman and the district's response.
Doug Larson, the district's policy and legal services director, said four girls already had to transfer out of Cottonwood High because of harassment from the Lyman case.
"What kids face in adolescent years leads to volatile circumstances," Larson said. "We ask you to be aware of the consequences here."
He also warned the district could lose federal funding by releasing the records, which he said would violate FERPA. Larson said investigative records transferred to the district automatically become, under the federal act, educational records.
The board rejected the FERPA argument, noting that the records were not educational in nature.
The board also granted Tribune reporter Erin Alberty's request for Utah Highway Patrol internal affairs documents related to a 2006 officer-involved shooting by then-Trooper Edward J. Bentley. But the board denied Alberty's requests for videotaped interviews because they could disclose the identity of a witness.
Lana Taylor, assistant Utah attorney general, argued that recent changes in the Government Records Access and Management Act allowed the UHP to withhold the documents, because they were prepared for an administrative hearing.
Bentley was subsequently fired.
The agencies have 30 days to appeal the committee's rulings.