Supreme Court to hear Gonzaga graduate’s case

Posted 11:36 a.m. Jan. 28

By Jamie Meltzer

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court announced last week it will decide the reach of federal legislation that protects student records.

The Court will hear a case involving a Gonzaga University graduate who wants to sue the school for disclosing a rape complaint to a teacher certification board.

Ru Paster, a 1994 Gonzaga graduate who was denied teacher certification in Washington state, hopes to sue his school for violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which prohibits universities from releasing personal information about students unless they are found guilty of a violent or sexual crime.

No charges were ever filed against Paster, who denies allegations made against him that were later withdrawn. Several college employees reported that a female student said that Paster had raped her, but the female student has denied those claims in a videotaped disposition.

Roberta S. League, the certification expert at Gonzaga’s School of Education alerted the certification board of the charges and refused to submit a statement of good character for Paster. Such a statement is required for a teacher certification.

Paster’s defense attorney, Laurie H. Siddoway, said in an interview that this is an important case for college students to be aware of because they may not be sure that federal law protects their student records.

The lawyers for Gonzaga are contending that students should not have the right to bring their college or university to court. They hope to avoid a flood of litigation.

Siddoway plans to argue against the prosecution’s claim, citing the small number of cases students have brought against FERPA since its creation in 1974. Siddoway sees this case as an opportunity for the Supreme Court to determine how far civil rights legislation can go.

“The case going to the Supreme Court is a pure legal question,” Siddoway said, “but that is why my client’s case is most troubling. The information was passed third- or fourth-hand, and it was incorrect.”

What complicates this case further, Siddoway said, is that students often want their school to pass information along. The Court will determine how much information can be given without violating FERPA.

The case will be tried as Gonzaga University and Roberta S. League v. John Doe.

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