U. of Iowa Shares Data With Local Sheriff on Students Seeking Gun Permits

The University of Iowa has been sharing data on students with local law-enforcement officials who process gun-permit applications, and that information includes some details that are normally kept private, under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, according to the Des Moines Register.

The newspaper reviewed e-mails between the local sheriff’s office and the university, and found that the university provides the sheriff’s office with certain information after the office notifies the institution that a student has applied for a gun permit. The chief of staff to the university’s president told the newspaper that the information could include details about failing grades or signs of depression or anger. He said that the practice dates back many years, possibly to 1991, when an Iowa graduate student shot and killed five people before committing suicide.

The local sheriff told the newspaper that the data in question did not include specific grades, but rather information on whether a student was failing classes or exhibiting troublesome behavior. A university lawyer said a privacy waiver signed by all applicants at the sheriff’s office enabled the university to share information protected by the privacy law, which is known as Ferpa. But the university never sees those waivers, and critics said that the practice probably doesn’t meet the federal law’s requirements, according to the newspaper.

The chief of staff to Iowa’s president told the newspaper that its inquiry had raised “some interesting questions for us,” and added that the university was considering new policies to deal with the matter.

For more, see this Chronicle article.

Image from Flickr user KOMUNnews.

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