FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

FINAL DECISION
Docket #FIC 1997-093
November 12, 1997

In the Matter of a Complaint by Peter Abraham and Norwich Bulletin, Complainants
against
Director of Athletics, Division of Athletics, University of Connecticut,   Respondent

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 21, 1997, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:

1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

2. By letter dated February 12, 1997, the complainants requested a copy of a report sent by the office of the respondent to the National Collegiate Athletic Association on or about January 17, 1997 regarding men’s basketball players Kirkland King and Ricky Moore, and also a copy of the subsequent appeal that was sent to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Eligibility Committee on or about January 28, 1997 regarding Messrs. King and Moore (together, the "requested records"). In the absence of the provision of the full texts of the requested records, the complainants requested such records with the names of students redacted.

3. By letter dated February 18, 1997, the respondent declined to furnish the requested records, stating that the students had not consented to the disclosure, with the result that such disclosure would therefore violate federal law. The respondent further stated that release of the records with redactions of the names of the two students would also violate federal law.

4. By letter dated March 13, 1997, and postmarked March 14, 1997, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide copies of the requested records which are unrelated to "academic pursuits" and which "detail a state funded investigation" about "athletes who are public figures".

5. At the hearing and in a brief, the complainants contend that athletic records are not educational records as term is used in the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and that the disclosure of the names of the students in question which has already occurred serves as a waiver of any right to bar disclosure.

6. At the hearing and in a post-hearing brief, the respondent contends that disclosure is barred by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the clarifying legislation adopted by the 1997 General Assembly ( 14(b)(17), P.A. 97-293), and by 1-19(b)(11), G.S.

7. Following the hearing in this matter, the respondent submitted the requested records for an in camera inspection.

8. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in pertinent part:

Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right…to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15.

9. Section 1-15(a), G.S., in turn, provides in pertinent part that:

(a)ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly, upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.

10. And 1-19(b)(11), G.S., provides an exemption from mandatory disclosure for:

names and addresses of students enrolled in any public school or college without the consent of each student whose name or address is to be disclosed who is eighteen years of age or older and a parent or guardian of each student who is younger than eighteen years of age….

11. It is concluded that the legislature, when it authorized an exemption from mandatory disclosure of even the name of a student without appropriate consent, intended that 1-19(b)(11), G.S., would also have the effect of authorizing a bar on disclosure of the far more sensitive information in the files of any student at an educational institution. See University of Connecticut v. Freedom of Information Commission, 217 Conn. 322, 329-330, footnote 5.

12. It is concluded that the records protected from mandatory disclosure by 1-19(b)(11), G.S., include all the files pertaining to individual students at public schools or colleges, not just the academic records of students. All student records, including athletic, academic, financial and social records, are protected against mandatory disclosure.

13. It is concluded that disclosure of the requested records with the redaction of the two students names would constitute easily identifiable, indirect disclosure. Maher v. Freedom of Information Commission, 192 Conn. 310 (1984).

14. It is found that the relevant students herein did not give their consent to disclosure of the requested records.

15. It is therefore concluded that the respondent did not violate 1-19(a) and 15(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainants with the requested records.

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of November 12, 1997.

_________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission

PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S., THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.

THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
Peter Abraham
Norwich Bulletin
66 Franklin Street
Norwich, CT 06360

Director of Athletics, Division of Athletics, University of Connecticut
c/o Paul M. Shapiro and Stephen N. Ment
Assistant Attorney General
University of Connecticut
605 Gilbert Road - U -177
Storrs, CT 06269-1177

__________________________
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC1997-093/FD/tcg/11121997