Jeanne Ortiz explains FERPA and discusses Title IX committee

Dear Editor:

I appreciate the opportunity to provide additional insight to this important issue and the interplay between FERPA, institutional policy and practice as contained in the letter from Frank D. LoMonte, Esq, the Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center sent to the Quaker Campus this afternoon.

I drafted the February 17, 2014 letter on behalf of the Title IX Committee and all members had an opportunity to review and comment before the letter was submitted to the QC by their deadline.

Members of the committee included Tea Bogue, Timm Browne, Andre Coleman, B Fonseca, Stephanie Hernandez, Joy Hoffman, Ann M. Kakaliouras, Kevin Nicholson, Jose Padilla, Rebecca Romberger, and Shelley Whitaker.

In our original Letter to the Editor dated February 17, 2014, I wrote, in reference to providing detailed information on sexual assault cases, “The Federal Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limits what can be shared.” This is entirely accurate, though reading the Student Press Law Center piece makes one think otherwise.

FERPA does restrict what information can be shared about student disciplinary cases, including those involving sexual assault or other crimes of violence. As the Student Press Law Center appropriately points out, what FERPA does not prevent is the disclosure of disciplinary outcomes and the names of those found responsible for “any crime of violence . . . or a nonforcible sex offense.”

Accordingly FERPA only allows the disclosure of a small amount of information—the outcome and the name of the person found responsible – related to crimes of violence and nonforcible sex offense cases. We cannot, under FERPA share the detailed accounts from witnesses, testimony and other evidence provided in these complex cases.

My statement that “FERPA limits what can be shared” reflects that reality and is not consistent with Mr. LoMonte’s statement  that  “it is incorrect to claim that FERPA prohibits the college from discussing such cases.”

Whittier has a long-standing policy that even when laws permit the disclosure of outcomes for student disciplinary cases, we have chosen not to do so.

While we have many reasons for our approach, the primary reason is that in our small and close-knit community, we feel that the privacy of witnesses, particularly survivors of sexual violence, could be compromised with the disclosure of the names of accused students and the associated outcomes.

We want to create an environment that is not only safe for all students, but also for survivors to feel comfortable coming forward and participating in our processes to address these serious matters.

There are certainly many arguments to be made from the varied perspectives of our diverse and vibrant institution. I believe the present situation provides our community with the opportunity to discuss our approach and weigh whether there is a path more appropriate for Whittier.

Given the continued interest in this topic and the on-going discussion in the QC, I invite you to an informational session on the Title IX, Clery reporting requirements, and the initiatives of the Title IX Committee on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 from 12:30-1:15 p.m. in Club 88.  I look forward to discussing the College’s efforts to eliminate sexual violence on campus.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Ortiz

Vice President and Dean of

Students

 

 

One response to “Jeanne Ortiz explains FERPA and discusses Title IX committee

  1. How is it that Ortiz is trying to soften the cold hard facts of Frank D. LoMonte, a lawyer?

    This law does not protect the assailants and nor should the school. Whittier should make its decisions on sexual assault cases public record. As a student I would want to know the school’s record of decisions concerning cases, much like I want to know the voting history of my elected officials. If the school does not release the names of parties involved in sexual violence cases then at least release the circumstances and final decisions concerning the case.

    Denying us this transparency just makes the school look guilty of protecting WC’s poor decisions. Let’s be open about Whittier’s history with sexual assault so we can better move forward with eliminating this violence.

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