Bill would exempt student info from open records law

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A proposed bill that was requested by the North Dakota Board of Higher Education would exempt contact information for college students from the state's open records law.

The move was prompted after a Bismarck-based advertising agency that handles much of the marketing for the state Republican Party requested the information for about 48,000 students during the campaign season.

Democratic leaders complained about the request and asked Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to block the release of the information. Stenehjem declined and said the directory is considered a public record.

Stenehjem said that the North Dakota University System, which includes 11 institutions, regularly receives requests for this type of information and it's routinely provided. Students are given the opportunity to opt out of the practice of releasing directory records, he said.

The two-sentence bill, which was pre-filed last week, would keep email, home and mailing addresses, as well as phone numbers, from being subjected to open records laws. The proposal says the law cannot be used to "shield the identity of the individual communicating with the public entity."

Pat Finken, president of Odney Advertising, which originally asked for the information, and Linda Donlin, spokeswoman for the state university system, did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

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