HOUSTON — The Houston Independent School District has denied a parent's request for the statistics of high school baseball players, citing a federal privacy law.
In April, Scott Rothenberg made a formal request for the statistics, such as hits and home runs, of players on the Bellaire High School baseball team.
He received a letter Tuesday from the district's lawyer telling him the information is private under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
The law generally is viewed as covering students' educational records, such as grades and disciplinary history.
Schools across the country regularly release player statistics for newspapers and game programs, but the Houston district contends that the FERPA law covers athlete's statistics.
"We agree it looks weird, and frankly, it would probably be a whole lot less heartache to the district if this information were not protected," said Chris Gilbert, an attorney for the district. "But the law is the law and we're required to follow it."
Rothenberg, the father of two sons who have played for the Bellaire team, said the district's response is "ridiculous." He requested the numbers so he can compare them with his own notes and videos of the games.
"I expect the people that we pay our taxes to to exercise some common sense in the application of these rules, and it seems like they're bound and determined not to," said Rothenberg, a civil attorney.
Gilbert said the district first assumed the individual statistics would be public information, but he researched the issue after the Bellaire baseball coach, Rocky Manuel, raised questions about the players' privacy.
Gilbert said he plans to ask the Department of Education for clarification.
A federal official said schools are allowed to release sports statistics on the condition that parents are told the information could be made public unless they want it withheld.
"It's information that's not generally considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if it's disclosed," said LeRoy Rooker, whose federal office administers the FERPA law.
Fred Clausen, the incoming president of the Texas High School Athletic Directors Association, said he hasn't seen a school district refuse to share statistics in his 30 years of involvement with Texas athletics. As athletic director for the Grand Prairie school district, Clausen said he often releases statistics to the local newspaper.
"I think that's something the coaches like and the kids like and the parents like, because it gives them a little exposure," he said.
"People are competitive by nature. They want to see these statistics," he said. "I don't really see how that could endanger an athlete by releasing their batting average or free-throw percentage."
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