FBI and colleges attack student rights
By DAVID BERNT
Using the so-called war on terrorism as a pretext, the FBI, in collaboration with colleges and universities, is trampling on the privacy rights of students. The FBI has sought out, and in most cases obtained private student records, which by law are not to be released without a student’s written consent.
To date, some 200 colleges and universities have handed over sensitive information about suspected students to the FBI, INS, or other governmental agencies, according to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers.
Under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, colleges and universities are not permitted to release student records. Officials at universities have used a loophole allowing for release of information in the case of a “health or safety emergency.”
Under the recently passed USA Patriot Act, government access to student records becomes even easier. According to the ACLU, “The USA Patriot Act allows law enforcement officials to cast an even broader net for student information without any particularized suspicion of wrongdoing.”
The act allows the government access to information gathered for statistical purposes. Until now, this information has been confidential. The USA Patriot Act allows an official to gain this information by certifying to a judge that the person in question relates to a criminal investigation.
The FBI and INS have targeted immigrants from Middle Eastern or Muslim countries, or in some cases students with Arabic-sounding names.
In one case, at a community college with a heavily Arab and Muslim population, the FBI inquired about the local street address of a student with an Arabic-sounding last name who has a student visa. According to a lawyer for the college, the college handed over the information without the consent or even the knowledge of the student.
It is clear by the U.S. government’s recent actions that the attack on student rights, and the rights of working people in general, are intended to increase the state’s ability to control the people it rules.
Students, especially foreign ones, are being attacked as a result of the broad antiwar movement that swept across campuses in the wake of Sept. 11. Student and workers must stand up to these threats. Only a mass movement of workers, students, and the oppressed can win back the rights that have eroded since Sept. 11.
Young People in Argentine Upsurge
The pictures of the street fighting in Argentina on Dec. 19-20 that that toppled the capitalist austerity government of former President Fernando de la Rua showed very young people playing a leading role.
In its issue no. 4, the on-line bulletin of the Argentine Movimiento al Socialismo, Socialismo o Barbarie, highlighted the role of youth in the powerful protests against the devastating effects of capitalism and imperialism on the masses-and in particular the young generations-of the undeveloped world:
“In all these actions, we need to single out the eruption of a vanguard made up basically of young people. In this area, the ‘generational renewal’ is evident. In all sectors of the working people, the young generations have been most dynamic in the struggle.
“This militant young component includes students, downtown office workers, and sectors of superexploited workers. Among the latter, the ‘motoqueros’ [motorcycle couriers], played the outstanding role.
“These young people work in conditions of superexploitation. Every day they risk their lives. They played a leading role in many of the street battles we have witnessed in past weeks, in particular in the Plaza de Mayo on Dec. 12, in which a number of them were murdered by the police.”
High School Students Confront Anti-Gay Bigotry
By ADAM RITSCHER
DULUTH, Minn.-In 1996 Jamie Nabozny, a young gay student from northern Wisconsin, made national headlines when he and his family successfully sued the Ashland School District for failure to protect him from constant verbal and physical harassment.
Throughout his school years Jamie had been heckled, beaten, and even urinated on because of his sexual orientation. All of this took place openly in the halls and locker rooms of Ashland high school, and despite frequent complaints to the administration, Jamie received little or no relief from his torment.
The federal court that heard Jamie’s case found the Ashland school district guilty of failing to protect Jamie and punish his tormenters. The school district was forced to pay him $900,000.
This event five years ago brought an unprecedented amount of attention to the small town of Ashland, Wis. Articles covering the case appeared in The New York Times, and MTV requested to visit the high school and speak with students (a request that the school denied). This did not, however, prevent the same thing from happening again, this time in nearby Duluth.
Jesse Montgomery, who successively attended Lakewood Elementary School, Ordean Middle School, and East High School in District 709 of Duluth, was awarded an undisclosed settlement in December after he too had been forced to sue the school district for failing to protect him from harassment.
Jesse’s harassment began way back in elementary school, and got progressively worse as he got older. In middle school he was frequently called derogatory names such as “faggot,” “fag,” “Jessica,” “princess,” “fairy,” and “bitch.”
In high school the harassment escalated to the physical. Jesse reported to the school administrators that other students would come up to him and grab his genitals and buttocks, trip him, beat him up, rub up against him, and even throw him to the ground and mock rape him. Students in his ninth and tenth grade choir class would grab his torso and inner thighs while chanting insults, all to the laughter of most of the students present.
Attempts by Jesse’s family to get the school to respond failed, and eventually he had to transfer to a high school in Two Harbors, a town 20 miles away from his home.
While it is fortunate that both Jesse Montgomery and Jamie Nabozny were able to win compensation, such awards, if that is an appropriate word, do little to compensate for the incredible agony these students, and thousands of others around the country, have had to go through. End anti-gay bigotry now!