Steve Megargee reports:
Over the past two weeks, as college athletes have returned to campuses to work out and prepare for sports later this year, a handful of them have tested positive for coronavirus.
Arkansas State. Houston. Boise State. Iowa State. Oklahoma State. More than a dozen schools in all.
Just how many positive tests isn’t known, however, because college officials are debating exactly what to tell the public.
Read more on Detroit News.
If a uni were to say, “We have had 3 student athletes who have tested positive for COVID-19 (out of our entire department),” you likely would not be able to figure out who they are, so FERPA doesn’t really kick in — or HIPAA if the student athletics records are HIPAA records (they may not be). But what if all student athletes but one had tested positive for COVID-19? Then revealing that pretty much does allow others to figure out who is likely to be positive — and hence, discriminated against, perhaps?
As the news story notes, in March, the U.S. Education Department issued a guidance on protecting student privacy and FERPA’s health and safety emergency exception. You can read the full guidance here. But when I looked at it again, one thing I thought about is whether anyone can really claim a health and safety “emergency” exists if the state or government has opened up the schools and the state. If it was truly a public health emergency, why is the school open and student athletes even engaging in activities? At what point can a school that re-opened say, “Uh, well, now we have a public health emergency here and we’re going to start sharing some info that we otherwise would not and could not share?” The logical way to share the info would be to provide just numbers to public health officials, but what if the state imposes track and trace contact monitoring, or parents start demanding the school tell them if any child or student in their child’s proximity could have infected their child? Strictly speaking, the school probably cannot and should not tell the parents specifically who tested positive, but will they when under pressure?