E-mail Story   Print Story
  Comments (0) Total Wednesday Apr. 23, 2014
Montana Law Impedes Schools from Sharing Data
Strict state laws protecting a student's privacy hamper data sharing among schools
BOZEMAN — Montana law prevents schools from sharing information about potentially dangerous students, despite urgings of the federal government to make such data more available in the wake of a mass shooting at Virginia Tech University in 2007.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Sunday that strict state laws protecting a student's privacy hamper such efforts at schools including Montana State University.

The U.S. Department of Education wants campuses to do a better job of communicating about students who pose potential risks. But Montana law forbids the sharing of student disciplinary records without a student's permission.

Matt Caires, MSU dean of students, says the state law even prevents the school from informing parents in the event of problems including drug and alcohol abuse.

"Montana law says you can't call mom and dad," Caires said at a two-day workshop in Bozeman focusing on how laws governing students and American colleges are evolving.

Concerns over potentially dangerous students peaked in 2007, when Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks, approximately two hours apart, before committing suicide.

Cho had been diagnosed with a mental disorder, but university officials were unaware of his illness.

One of the lessons of Virginia Tech was that different offices on campuses may have important information about threats or students with mental health problems, but because of confidentiality laws, they were afraid to share it.

Now, however, U.S. Department of Education is urging agencies within a university including law enforcement to share information, so that important details don't get locked up in so-called "silos" that prevent appropriate decision-making, Stetson University law professor Peter Lake of Florida told about 85 people from across Montana who were attending the workshop.

Leslie Taylor, MSU's legal counsel, reminded campus employees that they also have to follow Montana state law, however, which says they cannot share student disciplinary records without first securing permission from the student.

However, Taylor added, that doesn't bar campus employees from sharing "personal observations."
No comments have been posted for this article.

Kellyn Brown
Kellyn Brown22h
Flathead County may allow political signs to be posted forever http://t.co/gCGk4AZETR No more time restraints http://t.co/p0lQziFxCp
Dillon Tabish
Dillon Tabish13h
Kalispell Annexes 40 Acres Where Rail Park Could Surface http://t.co/POsYcPnh0v
Molly Priddy
Molly Priddy13h
@Lubchansky Where are you on this pain scale? http://t.co/U2MDitEdpl
Tristan Scott
Tristan Scott19 Apr
The Replacements just played with Billy Joe accompaniment! And played an encore! #Coachella2014
Flathead Beacon
FB Headlines3h
Cooking with Gas http://t.co/NbBrQyQzGu