How’s this for a case of the ends justifying the means? A university that was the scene of a student shooting in 1991 is taking no chances of a repeat performance. So the administration has implemented an invasive policy of sharing with the local sheriff’s department the transcripts and disciplinary history of any student who applies for a gun permit.
The University of Iowa has been quietly sharing federally protected student information with Johnson County law enforcement officials who handle gun permit applications — an arrangement that one national organization calls a ‘license to snoop.’
The information includes some data on classroom achievement that by law can’t be considered by sheriffs when processing permit-to-carry applications and are normally protected from disclosure by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
The federal law noted above requires public universities to keep secret personal information on students, such as their grades and addresses. But Iowa’s decision to share this information with the sheriff’s office seems to be a clear violation of the law’s spirit, if not its letter.
One graduate student at the university who sought a gun permit in 2011 called the revelation “incredibly,” asking, “How does my performance in class become an indicator of my mental stability?”
Another is quoted as saying, “This definitely raises red flags for me. After I applied for a permit, the dean called me on my cellphone and asked me about it, so I knew the sheriff told the university. What I didn’t know was that the information was flowing in the other direction and the dean was sharing information about me with the sheriff.”
The Register obtained and reviewed 2,000 pages of emails between the sheriff’s office and the university. These emails reveal that when students apply for a permit to acquire or carry a gun, the sheriff’s office receives information on the their “academic failures and disciplinary issues.” When a faculty or staff member applies for a permit, personnel information may be turned over.
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