Battle for open records

By Ioanna Makris and Henry M. Ramos
For The Daily Toreador Daily Toreador – Dept. of Student Media, Texas Tech University | 0 comments

A request under the Texas Public Information Act to the Lubbock Police Department for offense reports naming Texas Tech students as victims of off-campus crimes did not result in the disclosure of the names of victims.

The LPD released a spreadsheet of some 16,000 reported crimes, along with the type of crime, the date, location of the crime and a brief description of what occurred. However, the LPD refused to put the names of the victims in the spreadsheet even though they are contained on the front pages of offense reports, which are public records.

The information requested was all crime reports from 2009 for the types of crimes listed in the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, or Clery Act. The 2010 report will not be available until October 2011.

However, the spreadsheet of more than 16,000 offense reports with the names and dates of birth of victims was eventually released by the LPD after Matt Stiles, a reporter with The Texas Tribune, filed a separate, but identical, Texas Public Information Act request with the LPD.

Tech was asked to release records under the Texas Public Information Act pertaining to student names from the school years of 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.

However, the received information had approximately 7,000 student names for both years, compared to the approximate total of 30,000 students.

When Tech officials were asked to explain why they were unable to furnish all of the information requested, the response was that it would be a violation of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act to disclose the names of students who had “opted out” of having their names and other personal information listed in the university directory. However, Ronny Wall, associate general counsel at Tech, said if the information was requested for educational and research purposes, the university might be able to furnish it.

After contacting the Institutional Research department at Tech and explaining that the information requested under the Texas Public Information Act was for educational purposes and for the betterment of the university, all of the student names were released, as well as their dates of birth. Names of individual students in the project have only been used with their permission, and the names of all other student crime victims have been kept confidential.

A cross-match was then conducted of the crime information received from the LPD with the student information received from Tech, which resulted in a match of some 1,600 students listed as victims of off-campus crimes.

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