Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Iowa High Court to Decide Breadth of State's Open Records Law

Iowa City Press-CitizenImage via Wikipedia
Iowa's Open Records Law [Iowa Code Chapter 22] has butted heads with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and it's up to the Hawkeye State's Supreme Court to decide whether FERPA is subordinate.


According to a story in the Des Moines Register, the Iowa Supreme Court last week heard arguments arising from a November 2007, request for records by the Iowa City Press-Citizen to the University of Iowa involving an alleged sexual assault in a university residence hall by two of the college's football players.  The Press-Citizen sued the university in 2008 under Chapter 22 after multiple requests to the school yielded only 18 nonresponsive documents.


Iowa District Court Judge Douglas Russell compelled the university to produce a log of withheld documents, which showed 3,200 documents that the school would not produce because of state and federal privacy statutes and attorney-client privilege.  Following the release of 900 documents from the list, Judge Russell ordered the school to produce more than 1,100 documents from the list, but the University of Iowa has balked at producing even redacted versions of the documents, relying on FERPA.

The university fears it could lose federal funding if it releases student records, but the newspaper argues that Iowa U. would be protected if the records were produced pursuant to court order.  The Iowa Supreme Court offered to indication when a decision could be expected, according to the Register story.



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