Letter to the Editor: response to complying with Freedom of Information Act

Angie L. Pineda

***Please publish this response letter in its entirety in print and electronic versions of the Lariat

Dear Angie,

Last week, after receiving your March 7th email requesting a report on Ali Syed’s records, I informed you that the college was reviewing your request with legal counsel to determine if federal and state confidentiality laws would allow the college to release the records. I was disappointed to see that this information was omitted from your March 12th opinion editorial in the Lariat. As such, the college’s intentions on this delicate issue pertaining to federal privacy laws were misrepresented. While the college is invested in helping our Lariat students have access to information, we must always act professionally and ensure that we are properly interpreting and following the law before handing over records that may infringe on the privacy of students and their families.

The opinion of legal counsel is that based on the U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), it is within the discretion of the district to decide whether to release the documents in this highly unusual circumstance. The college and district take student privacy rights and laws protecting those rights seriously. Given that it is within our discretion to release the documents in this circumstance, the college and district have made the decision to honor the Lariat’s request.

Attached are Ali Syed’s application for Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS), a student history report, and an email from a DSPS to Ali Syed. Personal information on the application for services has been redacted. To help clarify the abbreviations in the student history report, the report shows that Ali Syed applied to DSPS on July 11th after seeing a generalist counselor for academic probation/disqualification, and that the college made attempts to contact him on August 15th, September 14th, and October 5th to schedule an appointment. He did not respond.

Thank you for your inquiry and patience as we worked to accommodate your request while honoring our commitment to the privacy of our students.

Sincerely,
Jennie McCue
 

*On FOIA Editorial-
http://www.lariatnews.com/editorial-saddleback-administration-should-follow-the-law-and-stop-protecting-shooter-syed-s-records-1.2816782#.UUOoTqUZy0t

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