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Colleges abuse federal law to keep athletic records secret

A six-month Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch investigation found that a 35-year-old federal law created to protect academic records is being used at some schools to shield athletics-related documents including NCAA violations. Reporters Todd Jones and Jill Riepenhoff sent public-record requests to all 119 colleges in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division 1-A) to gauge their openness and use of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The investigation shows that FERPA has been used to shield not only the activities of athletes but also coaches, boosters and other nonstudents. James L. Buckley, the former U.S. senator who wrote the law, told the newspaper that colleges have bastardized the intent of FERPA. He wants Congress to rein it in. The series also includes an searchable database of schools’ graduation rates, academic performance scores, athletic spending, NCAA violations, and how they scored in terms of openness when asked for public records.

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