Q&A: School surveillance video


From The Herald (Jasper):

Q: We filed a request to view video from the school gym, which may show a coach acting inappropriately, and obtain a copy of it. We received a letter from the school corporation denying us access.

The superintendent cited the following as the basis for the denial: The federal statute which requires confidentiality is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 20 U.S.C. 1232; and the companion Indiana statute, I.C. 20-33-7-1.

A: The state statute cited defines educational records as information recorded by the school district that “concerns” a student. The question is whether a constantly running camera in the gym where various students are going to come in and out of play would be considered a record “concerning” a student.

When I look at IC 20-33-7 in its entirety I would argue the intent was to cover records in a student’s file – test scores, disciplinary notes, etc. – not random snippets of video from cameras running throughout the school district.

The unfortunate fact though is that Indiana appellate courts have taken a broader view of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act definition of educational records – including student disciplinary actions. So I can’t say with any certainty how the courts would apply the state and federal statute to surveillance camera footage.

I do think it’s worth running the question by the Public Access Counselor’s office for an opinion. You’d like to think state and federal law wouldn’t protect inappropriate or criminal behavior by a coach on the pretext of protecting a child’s educational records.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.