The Norman Transcript

May 18, 2013

Former student sues OU over school’s refusal to release student parking citation information

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — A lawsuit was filed against the University of Oklahoma last week after the university repeatedly refused to release student parking citation information.

The lawsuit was specifically filed against David Boren, individually and as the President of OU, and Rachel McCombs, individually and as the Director of the Open Records Office at OU, on May 10 in Cleveland County District Court.

The plaintiff, Joey Stipek, is a former OU student and former online editor of the Oklahoma Daily. Stipek believes the parking citation information should be available to the public through the Oklahoma Open Records Act.

The petition filed states several requests from The Oklahoma Daily employees were denied by the Open Records Office at OU because the parking citations were protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and, thus, exempt from disclosure under the Open Records Act.

Stipek was seeking OU’s parking tickets to determine if preferential treatment had been given to anyone, especially athletes, said Joey Senat, associate professor at OSU School of Media and Strategic Communications.

In a previously published response to the request, OU officials said the university has provided and will continue to provide the Daily information related to any non-student ticket recipient, including faculty staff or university guests to whom the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act does not apply.

“In fact, we have already provided parking ticket information about President Boren and other university officials,” the letter stated.

OU officials said the ticketing system is an administrative, not criminal, function. Therefore, they are administrative records “directly related to a student” that “are maintained by an educational agency or institution” that may not be disclosed under FERPA. This sets them apart from law enforcement records, which are required to be disclosed to the public, the officials said.

Senat said OU and OSU officials have made that claim for years even though courts in other states have ruled otherwise.

“After being denied access, Stipek asked for all non-student parking citations. But the university replied that it didn’t have the technological capability to redact student information from the database, according to (Stipek’s) petition,” Senat wrote in a Freedom of Information Oklahoma blog on Tuesday.

“I have spoken with Boren regarding the matter, he is sympathetic to the concept of disclosing the names of students receiving tickets, but the university is bound to comply with federal guidance. Should that guidance change, the university will adopt policies that include the disclosure of student information alongside that are already available for faculty, staff and others,” the letter stated.

The petition states that Stipek wants the defendants to release all parking citations issued by the University of Oklahoma and respectfully requests reasonable attorney fees and all such other relief as the court deems proper.

Jessica Bruha