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Civil rights for everyone – except students

Apparently, students have less right to public information and records, because clearly constitutional laws do not apply to them. People can deny students basic civil liberties because, well, what can they do about it?

Let’s say, and this is just a random example, that maybe the information being withheld were decisions made about where the Student Life Fee was being spent.

This is money paid by students, for student use at a public institution – public record.

One would think that because it is public record, to get this information, one would simply have to ask for it. Sadly, for students, it is usually much more complicated.

Or, let’s say that maybe the information being withheld were the majors of a few students being investigated for a homicide. Again, just an example.

While some might argue that the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA would protect this information, the act clearly states what is and is not educational record.

For instance, grades, transcripts, social security numbers, gender, race, computer media, video or audio tapes, CDs and photographs are all items that can only be released with student consent.

On the other hand, there is directory information. This is information the school may disclose without consent from the student. This includes their name, address, phone number, email address, date of attendance, degree(s) awarded, enrollment status, and lastly, major field of study.

Also, FERPA clearly includes telephone numbers in directory information, which means, if someone were to ask the school for a student’s phone number, the school could supply it.

If a student in a leadership position, let’s say, a Student Services Fee Advisory Committee member, were to choose not to talk about the important decisions they were making, and therefore would not like to be called by student journalists, they must take further action to individually and formally inform the college that their number should be private.

When a person takes an office, whether it’s the chair of a committee at a junior college or the president of the United States, they must be prepared to disclose public records.

There are no restrictions on public information.

If a parent or journalist from a non-student publication were to ask for information that is by law public, would the supplier even question it?

When students, particularly student journalists ask for this information, whether from Tyler Junior College or any other college or university, they should be given the information without difficulty and definitely should not be threatened to be placed under arrest.

The fact is students have a right to public information, and it should not be any more difficult to obtain public records for a student than anyone else.

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