Freshman's Death Spurs FERPA Questions

LAWRENCE, Kan.

Parents of a 19-year-old University of Kansas freshman are challenging the university’s interpretation of privacy laws after their son died of alcohol poisoning at an off campus fraternity house.

The freshman was evicted from his dorm room after campus officials found beer in his room, but the university wouldn’t disclose further details of the eviction to the student’s parents. After the student’s death, university officials informed his parents that the eviction came after a series of alcohol violations. University officials believed that Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) laws prohibited them from disclosing the details to the student’s family.

FERPA, which was passed 35 years ago, was intended to keep academic records private. However, the law has since been interpreted by many to prohibit the release of information about campus crimes and other incidents.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown told The Columbus Dispatch he plans to ask the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) to better define an educational record. The federal agency interprets FERPA and monitors compliance.

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