Getting Prof to Remove Web Post
of Student's Poor Work May be as Simple as Asking


I'm enrolled in a senior level English course this semester. We have to write a short paper just about every week. Sometimes our professor copies and distributes a paper or two to the whole class to illustrate a point he's trying to make, or as an example. He's also posted a few papers on the class Web site. One of the papers there is mine. And it's not posted for a good reason. It's there as an example of what no to do. My last name is blocked out. But there are enough details (like the class number and date—I'm the only Latonya in my class, maybe in the school) to identify me. I really don't want it up there. Is he allowed to do this? Is there anything I can do to get him to take it down?

Latonya, Junior, Public College or University, Vermont


There are a couple of tactics you can take. The first is pretty simple. Go ask your professor to take the thing down, or, at the very least to remove your name. The fact that your name is still on there may just be an oversight. So getting it taken off may be as simple as a quick request.

But, just in case you do get some resistance, here are a few legal facts. Arm yourself with them, and you should do just fine, no matter how adamant your prof is about keeping your work online.

First off, as we speak, there is a case winding its way through the Nebraska court that involves a similar situation. In that case, a University of Nebraska professor posted two pieces by one of his students on a Web site he created and maintained. He posted the pieces without the student's consent and didn't even tell her that he was doing so. Evidently the works contained intimate details of the student's private life.

When she found out about the papers, she asked her professor to take them down. When he refused, she filed a lawsuit for negligence against the university. The case is still being adjudicated _ it went all the way up to the state supreme court on a procedural issue. But, no matter what the court eventually finds, the case certainly stands for the proposition that a student in your position can make a LOT of trouble for the school if she wants to.

If you have to, mention the case (Shlien v. Board of Regents, 263 Neb. 465) in your meeting. The other thing you might want to mention is FERPA. As you probably already know, FERPA prohibits the disclosure of educational records without the student's permission. Since the paper identifies you, it's probably an "educational record" under FERPA. So the posting is in violation of the law. Tell your professor that, and he'll probably just cave.

But if he doesn't, just walk on over to the Student Records office and file a complaint there. I think you'll see rapid results after that.

Good luck.

The material in this column addresses general legal issues only; is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such; and may or may not be appropriate to a specific situation. Laws and procedures change frequently and are subject to differing interpretations. This column is not intended to create, and does not create, a lawyer-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.

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