The Houstonian is the student newspaper of Sam Houston State University. One of their reporters, Jay R. Jordan, reported a possible privacy leak involving the student government:
Allegations of FERPA law violations erupted after student government Senator Troy Ross included SGA Vice President Brooke Hunter’s GPA in an appeal to the SGA Supreme Court but refused to say where he got the confidential information.
“How he obtained them is the next question, because… he does work for an office at the university that does have access to that,” Hunter said.
Ross said he got Hunter’s GPA from a source he refused to disclose to The Houstonian. Ross claims her GPA is too low for her to be a member of the SGA executive board, but disclosure of the confidential information could be a legal breach.
“I was able to find out from somebody, and I can’t name their name,” Ross said. “I know there are FERPA laws, but she also violated [the SGA] constitution. I can’t go to jail for that, because I didn’t, I’m not, I didn’t release that. I mean I did, but I can’t say who [I obtained it from]. I’m going to protect that person.”
Well, okay, Mr. Ross, first: FERPA doesn’t result in jail terms for violation of its provisions. Second, even if you think someone violated the SGA constitution, that wouldn’t justify someone leaking it to you if they worked in a setting or had access to the information but were supposed to be protecting it under FERPA. Nor would it justify you further disclosing that information. As a member of student government, you should be protecting the privacy of student education records, not violating it. And I don’t think you get to shield the person who leaked information to you if the university investigates this as a potential leak.
And the first question for Sam Houston State University is to determine whether they had an insider privacy breach that violates either FERPA and/or the university’s code of student conduct. If it turns out that Hunter’s GPA was told to you by a friend of Hunter’s or someone who acquired that information without violating FERPA or the student code of conduct, then okay, although I still don’t like the way you handled this, but obstructing an investigation should not be an option.
If the university does not investigate the potential breach or take satisfactory action, the affected student (Hunter) could file a FERPA complaint with the U.S Education Department’s Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO).
Read more on The Houstonian.