Open government groups urge Illinois court to grant records access

Press release from Student Press Law Center (SPLC):

The Student Press Law Center (“SPLC”) and other open-government groups are urging the Illinois Appellate Court to grant journalists access to records of a university’s investigation into sexual harassment claims against coaches and a settlement paid to resolve those claims.

In a brief filed in support of Illinois’ State Journal-Register, the SPLC argues that records documenting official misconduct or the spending of taxpayer money cannot be withheld on the grounds of federal “student privacy” law.

The SPLC filed its friend-of-the-court (“amicus”) brief Jan. 2 with the Fourth District Appellate Court of Illinois, in the case of State Journal-Register v. University of Illinois-Springfield.

“Access to public records about public spending and official misconduct is essential if the public is to effectively discharge its oversight responsibilities over powerful government institutions such as the University of Illinois-Springfield,” the SPLC asserts in the brief. “Far from protecting student privacy, FERPA instead has become the default response to any citizen’s request for information, interposed to delay and frustrate journalists and parents alike(.)”