Wednesday, June 23, 2010

NWOSU's FERPA-claim for secrecy garners national criticism

Northwestern Oklahoma State University's claim that a federal privacy law prohibits it from disclosing which students receive scholarships funded by Alva's sales taxes is another example of why the statute is "broken," said the executive director of the
Student Press Law Center.

"This is yet another example of why Congress and the Department of Education have to fix this broken statute. It's just far too easy for people who want to conceal embarrassing information to cry 'FERPA,'" said Frank LoMonte on the SPLC website Tuesday.

The distribution of more than $220,000 in scholarships last fall was questioned in January by Helen Barrett, an editor for
The Alva Review-Courier and an FOI Oklahoma board member.

Barrett and the
FOI Oklahoma Blog reported early last week that NWOSU officials say the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prohibits them from disclosing the names of recipients even though they have done so for the past 10 years under an agreement with the city.

At least some of the scholarship winners also have signed a FERPA form permitting the school to notify their hometown newspapers.

NWOSU handed out $214,000 from the scholarship fund for the recent spring semester.

Alva Councilman Roger Hardaway, who had insisted on seeing the list of recipients, told the SPLC he will again bring up the issue of public disclosure at the Council's meeting on July 6.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism

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