April 15, 2008
(AP) Senator Jim Webb says he will introduce legislation Tuesday aimed at easing school officials' concerns over when it is appropriate to disclose student records.
Webb's announcement comes almost a year after a disturbed gunman killed 32 students and himself at Virginia Tech. It addresses one of the key issues raised by a panel formed by Governor Tim Kaine to investigate the April 16, 2007 shootings.
It would amend the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act by adding a "safe harbor" provision that would allow school officials to release information if it's deemed necessary to protect the student or general public.
It further clarifies that the 1974 privacy law doesn't prohibit sharing records with off-campus medical providers who also are providing treatment to a student. The bill says only "a good faith belief" is required to disclose records.
School administrators have said that fear of violating federal privacy laws like FERPA have made it difficult to respond effectively to troubled students like Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho.
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