As part of her investigation into how Baylor didn’t fully investigate reports of sexual violence involving football players, ESPN’s Paula Lavgine requested reports from Baylor police. The department refused to release any and their refusal was then forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office in Texas for review. The AG’s office, helmed by a Baylor graduate, upheld the police department’s decision to release nothing.
States generally require the names of sexual assault victims be redacted from police reports; in Texas, the AG’s office writes, this is done “under common-law privacy.” But the report itself—with the name and other identifying information removed—still can be released. The idea is to balance the public’s right to know with protecting the identity of the victims.
In this case, though, the AG’s office brought something else into the equation—the fact that ESPN knows the names of the victims. Because ESPN knows the names of the victims, they hold, the only way to preserve the victims’ privacy is withholding everything. From the opinion:
In Open Records Decision No. 393 (1983), this office concluded generally, only information that either identifies or tends to identify a victim of sexual assault or other sex-related offense may be withheld under common-law privacy; however, because the identifying information was inextricably intertwined with other releasable information, the governmental body was required to withhold the entire report. ... The requestor in this case knows the identities of the alleged victims. We believe in this instance, withholding only identifying information from the requestor would not preserve the victims’ common-law rights to privacy. Therefore, we conclude the department must withhold the submitted information in its entirety under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with common-law privacy.
It’s worth pointing out that ESPN did not identify the women in their report, which came on Feb. 2, six days before the date on the AG’s office opinion. In fact, two women signed FERPA waivers, essentially waiving their rights to privacy as students, so Baylor could discuss their cases with ESPN. Baylor did not.
The full AG’s office opinion is below.
Image via Getty