In the courts–Supreme Court

In the courts–Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court, as expected, ruled unanimously and unequivocally that the federal law on the confidentiality of student records does not bar pupils from announcing their classmates’ grades on assignments corrected in class (“peer grading”). Owasso ISD v Falvo, 001073 (Feb. 19). The court will hear oral arguments April 24 on whether the same law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, per mits an aggrieved parent or child to sue for violations of the law. The law itself says that the only remedy is withholding of federal funds from a school district or university system. The remedy has never been invoked in 28 years. Gonzaga University v. Doe, 01-679.

* In oral arguments before the Supreme Court Feb. 26, lawyers on both sides argued that the right to privacy supported their position. The issue is whether a municipality may require religious or political activists to identify themselves and get a permit before soliciting door-todoor. The village of Stratton, Ohio, argued that this protects the privacy of its residents; the Jehovah Witnesses sect said that the First Amendment protects their right to proselytize without identifying themselves to the government. Members of the court seemed to want to protect both interests. Conservative Associate Justice Antonin Scalia saw a tolerable risk in having someone ring your doorbell unannounced, as the price to pay to live in a free society. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, his conservative colleague, thought that a municipality could legitimately try to limit strangers from approaching houses. Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wanted to know whether the ordinance applies to Halloween trick-ortreaters. Watchtower Bible and ]ract Society v. Village of Stratton, 00-1737.

* The court agreed to hear a challenge to state “Megan’s Laws,” which require states to post information about sex offenders on-line. The case before the court involves two Alaska men. Publishing their records on the Internet subjected them to “worldwide obloquy and ostracism,” according to a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion. Otte v. Doe, 02-729 (Feb. 19).

Copyright Privacy Journal Mar 2002

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