Like many people, I have been watching TV news and reading about the mass murder at The Dark Knight Rises opening in Aurora, Colorado. There are simply no words that can adequately convey all the myriad feelings, but my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. As a parent, I can think of nothing worse than having to bury your child.
My thoughts and prayers are also with the law enforcement personnel who are engaged in trying to clear Mr. Holmes’ apartment. Perhaps those who only see police as evil should take a moment and listen to the professionalism of the first responders who responded to the scene and think about the risks some continue to take to protect public safety.
But in the midst of tragedy, privacy issues still arise, and once again – as we saw after the VA Tech shooting and after the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords – both HIPAA and FERPA laws impact how much may be revealed.
And so I noted this update to an L.A. Times story from yesterday:
For the Record, 3:55 p.m. July 20: An earlier version of this post included details of a grade that James Holmes had received in a class at UC Riverside. This version removes those details, in deference to federal rules that prohibit the release of students’ grades without their permission.]
Kudos to the paper, although I wonder how they even obtained the grade and suspect that someone they interviewed had violated FERPA by revealing it.
The public has a genuine interest in this case and there will be many more revelations to come, including the inevitable psychiatric evaluations of the alleged shooter. I hope that the media continues to report responsibly and that those with the responsibility to protect privacy, do so. There are legitimate means to obtain information protected by FERPA and HIPAA, but leaks are not among them.