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Naming names regarding grades issues

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Stupid, Aug 13, 2007.

  1. Stupid

    Stupid Member

    Recently our SE did a training camp piece on a local HS. The head coach told him his top returning RB & WR — some 2,700 yards of offense — were in jeopardy of not playing because they didn't pass summer school. So he ran his quotes and named the players.

    I do not know if either player has reached the age of 18 but was this a breach of a federal privacy act, as one principal is now claiming?
  2. Stupid

    Stupid Member

    Well, he quoted the coach and also put forth the info himself.

    I'm sure the coach has received cease and desist orders. He told me one of the players' moms had already called him. This principal is a little bit of a dick and I'm sure at some point when I see him, he'll make a point to lecture me about it. He's already ticked off at the paper for running a 1-A story on his school's lowered performance this past year and is on the "why do you have to print negative news?" podium.

    I'm going to ask our ME tomorrow if we did anything wrong but was hoping some here could give me a preview of what he'll say. My instincts say it wasn't a violation but I'm not up to speed on that kind of thing and the SE is an old-school-not-J-school kind of guy.
  3. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    It's more than STFU--it's FERPA....the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

    Illegal to disclose certain student information except in specific cases, and sports coverage isn't one of those.


    I don't know the penalty for possessing this kind of protected information (as opposed to disclosing it), but there's surely an ethical issue here, as to whether a newspaper should publish it.
  4. Whoops.

    Shoulda at least raised some red flags and led to some discussion. Stup, did anyone on the desk even question it or was it one of those deals where no one questions the SE?
  5. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    At this point, I'd say if you want to discuss any academic matter whatsoever regarding a high school athlete, you better get it straight from the player himself, or his/her parents.

    Once the player or parents has disclosed the actual academic information, I suspect the coach would be OK if he commented, in general terms, on information the player/parents have already released.

    And if the coach starts getting snippy about discussing unfavorable academic information, you can let him know when he can expect the next bread-buttering story on his team's great classroom performance -- i.e., about never.
  6. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    the coach violated ferpa laws but the reporter did nothing wrong. as for exercising some discretion since it's hs kids, keep in mind that the poster said these were the two big offensive cogs so if they're not on the field, you just going to ignore it?
  7. Terence Mann

    Terence Mann Member

    It's been an eternity since I covered preps, but many a time we reported a player being academically ineligible. We never thought twice and always attributed the information to the coach. Was this law in effect 10, 20 years ago?
  8. aztarheel

    aztarheel New Member

    We had a deal last year where one of our local teams, the defending state champs likely on their way to another championship, had used an ineligible player and had to forfeit three games. He was ineligible because of transcript issues - he had transferred back to the school after spending a year at another school.

    Anyways, my publisher demanded that we find out who it was and he told us to use the name in a story that ran on our front page, which we did. The school howled at us but some of the players had point blank told us who it was - we barely had to dig ... it was pretty common knowledge around town ... the team still went on to win another state title...

  9. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    i hope you actually meant to say: "This principal is a little bit of a dick and I'm sure at some point when I see him, he'll attempt to make a point to lecture me about it before i tell him to shut the fuck up."
  10. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    It's been around since the mid-70's, although it was amended with the Patriot Act ('It's important!!') and also with No Child Left Behind, which allows the military to collect the names of all enrolled high school students (parents are allowed to opt out of this).

    As far as I know, the law has everything to do with publicly-funded schools protecting the privacy of students and their records. Once that has been breached, I don't know of any law that prevents the media from using it.

    In Stupid's case, the principal is howling at the wrong guy. He needs to go find the coach.

    But it still seems like an ethical question--is it necessary for the media to humiliate and damage the reputation of a high school kid because he failed a class? He didn't commit a crime, get busted at a party, beat up a girl...maybe he just really sucks at math. Isn't it a little harsh to make that the business of the whole town?
  11. Left_Coast

    Left_Coast Active Member

    But the fact the top receiver and running back might not play is germane to the story, no? So how do you get around that?
  12. Boobie Miles

    Boobie Miles Active Member

    Exactly what I was thinking. Say you got this off the record or just through the rumor mill, you wouldn't be able to report it and probably have to write the coaching favorite "violation of team rules." But if the coach gives you the exact reason why two of the best players aren't playing on record, how can you not report it?
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