Wednesday, August 29, 2001
Lockyer Opinion Says:
District May Turn Over Tape of School Bus Fight to Prosecutors
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
A school district doesn’t need a subpoena, a court order, or parental consent in order to turn a tape of an assault recorded by a school bus security camera over to prosecutors, Attorney General Bill Lockyer has opined.
In an opinion requested by Butte County District Attorney Michael Ramsey, Lockyer said that exceptions to state and federal student privacy laws permit Ramsey’s office to view the tape of a recent incident, the specifics of which were omitted from the opinion.
Ramsey said he needs to see the tape before deciding whether to file criminal charges, bring juvenile court proceedings, or refer the matter to an alternative program.
The attorney general noted that under the Education Code, “information directly related to an identifiable pupil,” while otherwise confidential, may be turned over to a “probation officer or district attorney for the purposes of conducting a criminal investigation or an investigation in regards to declaring a person a ward of the court.”
Federal law is in accord, Lockyer said, citing 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1232g. While the statute places various restrictions on the release of “education records” by a school district which receives federal funds, “records maintained by a law enforcement unit” of the district are expressly exempted, the attorney general noted.
“A security camera on a school bus may reasonably be expected to be operated by a unit of the school district involved in law enforcement…As such the videotape would not constitute an ‘education record’ for purposes of the federal law.”
Even if the tape were not exempt from the definition of “educational records,” Lockyer said, it would fall under a provision allowing disclosure to “[s]tate and local officials or authorities” if the “reporting or disclosure concerns the juvenile justice system and such system’s ability to effectively serve, prior to adjudication, the student whose records are released; and…the officials and authorities to whom such information is disclosed certify in writing to the educational agency or institution that the information will not be disclosed to any other party except as provided under State law without the prior written consent of the parent of the student.”
The attorney general reasoned:
“Under this federal exception, the district attorney’s viewing of the videotape would ‘concern’ the juvenile justice system. Depending upon what is portrayed on the videotape, the district attorney may determine whether juvenile justice system proceedings should be instituted or possibly avoided through an early delinquency intervention program. The videotape would provide the district attorney with information allowing him to identify and intervene with a juvenile at risk of delinquency.”
The opinion, No. 01-209, was prepared for Lockyer by Deputy Attorney General Clayton P. Roche.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company