District Judge Orders Commissioner of Higher Education to Release Redacted Records Sought by Author [AUdio]
A judge has ordered the State Commissioner of Higher Education, Clayton Christian, to release any records relating to a University of Montana student accused of sexual assault in 2012, to author Jon Krakauer.
Spokesman Kevin McRae said on Thursday that releasing such records presents a risk of violating federal student privacy laws.
"The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act states that if we were to release any information about any student and be found in violation of the act, the risk is that the university could lose all federal funding," McRae said. "That means we could lose the ability to receive Pell Grants and federal student financial aid. That's serious business. We want to make sure that we carry out the orders of the district court, as long as that it is in compliance with federal law."
McRae recited part of Judge Kathy Seeley's order.
"The commissioner's office shall arrange to make available for inspection, or for copying, within 21 days of the issuance of this memorandum and order the records requested in pages four and five of Mr. Krakauer's petition subject to the following conditions. Each and every reference to student name, birth date, social security number, address and or telephone number must be redacted."
McRae was asked if simply redacting the personal information of the student without including the context of the information contained in the records, would comply with federal law in protecting the identity of the student.
"Would blacking out names truly protect the identity of the student?" McRae said. "That's a good question, whether we're talking about the student named by Mr. Krakauer, or any of the other 12,000 students on the UM campus, we would have to make sure that whatever we do truly would protect the identity of the student, and that's one of the many things we're going to be looking at in our analysis."
ESPN reports that Krakauer has requested, and has now been granted, access to how the state commissioner of higher education handled the sexual assault case against University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson.
Johnson was tried and found not guilty of rape in March of 2013, and was later reinstated to the team. He is now the starting quarterback for the Grizzlies, and is on the Walter Payton Award watch list.