MISSOULA — The office of the Commissioner of Higher Education is appealing a judge’s order to release information on how the panel responded to disciplinary action recommended for a Montana quarterback over a rape allegation.
Commission spokesman Kevin McRae said Thursday that the U.S. Department of Education is aware of District Judge Kathy Seeley’s order but advised the Montana University System against releasing the records on Jordan Johnson to author Jon Krakauer or anyone else, citing the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
“We have a duty on behalf of the public to get this right,” McRae told the Missoulian.
The university system filed its appeal with the Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday.
A University of Montana disciplinary panel recommended Johnson be expelled over accusations involving a female acquaintance in 2012. Johnson appealed that recommendation to Commissioner Clayton Christian, but there is no information on what action, if any, Christian took.
Johnson, who was suspended from the football team for the 2012 season, was not expelled from school. A jury acquitted him in March 2013.
Krakauer is seeking the information for a book he is writing about sexual assaults at UM.
Seeley’s Sept. 25 order rejected the university system’s concerns for student privacy and the potential loss of federal funding for violating student privacy rights.
“The entire incident, from the initial administrative investigation to the conclusion of the criminal trial, is a matter of public record,” Seeley wrote. “The only aspect of the lengthy process that is not a matter of public record is the action taken by the commissioner.”
She also argued the university’s federal funding would only be jeopardized if the school systematically disclosed personal student information.
Krakauer’s attorney, Mike Meloy, said he expected the state to file an appeal.