HISD: Sports stats protected private information under federal law (?!)

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The Chronicle‘s Ericka Mellon reported earlier this week on a parent who is being denied access to student sports statistics by an HISD attorney who insists they are private information under federal law:

An attorney for the district informed Scott Rothenberg this week that federal law prohibits giving him documents showing the statistics of players on the Bellaire High baseball team.

“This is just ridiculous,” said Rothenberg, a civil attorney. “I expect the people that we pay our taxes to to exercise some common sense in the application of these rules, and it seems like they’re bound and determined not to.”

An official with the U.S. Department of Education bolstered Rothenberg’s claim Wednesday, saying athletes’ statistics do not have to be kept confidential and are routinely released to the public.

Rothenberg filed a formal request with HISD in April, asking for all Bellaire baseball players’ statistics, such as hits and home runs.

His son Daniel played at Bellaire before graduating in May; son Jared still plays and will be a senior this fall.

On Tuesday, Rothenberg received a letter from HISD attorney Chris Gilbert of the firm Bracewell & Giuliani, telling him the information is private under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

The law generally is viewed as covering students’ educational records, such as grades and disciplinary history. HISD contends, however, that it also covers such records as how many hits a student-athlete got in a baseball game or how many touchdowns a player scored in a football game.

When I lived in Missouri, my undergraduate institution routinely tried to avoid releasing aggregate campus crime information (no doubt over concerns of the university’s image). After the student newspaper won a federal court decision against the university — the reasoning of which was decidedly critical of the university’s arguments — the university was forced to back down from its position.

The refusal to release sports statistics is an even more mind-boggling stance by a local educational institution. Here’s hoping some grownup will resolve this one before it comes to the trouble and expense of a federal judge slapping down HISD. There surely must be better uses for HISD funds than this sort of legal activity.


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