A bill signed this summer could have important ramifications for Georgetown’s disciplinary process and the disclosure of confidential information surrounding disciplinary decisions.

The College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008, a piece of federal education legislation passed by Congress on July 31 and signed into law by President George W. Bush on Aug. 14, will require the university to reevaluate the code of student conduct and the university’s interpretation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

However, this bill has another, more direct link to the Hilltop: a small amendment in the bill borne out of events that transpired in 2000 with the death of Georgetown student David Shick.

The legislation includes an amendment of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act requiring universities and colleges to disclose the results of any disciplinary proceedings to the victim or next-of-kin in the case of a violent crime, contingent on their participation in federal student aid funding.

The long road to its inclusion of this stipulation in the education authorization bill, however, began with the story of Shick.

Shick, a junior, was killed on Feb. 15, 2000 following a fight in the parking lot of Lauinger Library between two groups of students, in which alcohol was reportedly involved. Shick was punched and hit his head repeatedly, and died from injuries in the Georgetown University Hospital four days later. Soon after, the District medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

At that time, the university refused to release the results of the disciplinary hearing to Shick’s parents unless they agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement, including the names, violations and any issued sanctions to involved students.

“Only those who need to know will be told,” Judy Johnson, then-director of student conduct, said in 2000 after the incident.

Deborah Shick, David’s mother, said she and her husband refused to sign the agreement because they would not be able to share the findings with their other children.

Now, the signing of this legislation affirms the years of effort the Shick family has spent in pushing for this change on the federal level.

“What was important to me was that no other family had to endure what we went through to get the information that we should have been entitled to as victims,” Deborah Shick said.

Originally, the Shick family, with the help of their Congressman, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), pushed for a standalone bill named the David Shick Honesty in Campus Justice Act. The bill was introduced by Frelinghuysen in 2007 and referred to the Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Competitiveness.

Deborah Shick noted some of the challenges and frustrations that the family faced while lobbying for the bill on Capitol Hill.

“It was a very long road. Every time Congress would change, we would have to start all over again,” she said.

David’s younger brother, Matthew Shick (COL ’04), took over lobbying efforts in Congress in 2004 after his graduation.

According to S. Daniel Carter, a senior vice president at Security on Campus, a non-profit organization geared towards protecting the safety of college students, the amendment stipulates that when colleges sign the Program Participation Agreement to affirm their ability to participate in federal student aid programs, the institution agrees to abide by the new disclosure provisions.

“It is important for victims to know the outcomes of their cases,” Carter said. “It helps not only with their state of mind, but also, more substantively, to allow them to know if they will have to share a campus with a person who assaulted them.”

The inclusion of the amendment together with the broader College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008 ensures that the measure is given more weight, Schick said, as it is directly tied to federal funding.

Georgetown’s policy is written in the Code of Student Conduct and is an interpretation of FERPA, which gives universities the option to make known the final results of student disciplinary hearing in the case of a violent crime or sexual assault. In the Shick case, the university required a non-disclosure agreement before releasing any information regarding the disciplinary proceedings.

Since the legislation does not come into effect until August 2009, Georgetown has not yet revised their current code of conduct or disclosure policies. However, according to university spokesperson Julie Bataille, the university is expected to take a second look at their position on the confidentiality of student disciplinary records in light of the new legislation.

“We regularly review our policies to address issues that arise and will review the recently enacted legislation to make sure that our policies are in compliance with new provisions,” Bataille said.

The Shicks, as well as Carter, who worked with the family in their Capitol Hill lobbying efforts, also sought out another Georgetown student to change the university’s disclosure policies.

In 2002, they contacted Kate Dieringer (NHS ’05), who was the victim of an alleged rape by her New Student Orientation adviser during her first weeks on campus.

Dieringer tried to speak openly about her experience to educate the school community, but said that FERPA law prevented her from revealing the outcome of the board’s hearing.

Then she was contacted by Carter and the Shicks.

“[Carter] said, `Kate, you know that FERPA says that victims of violent crimes can re-disclose everything,'” Dieringer said in an interview with THE HOYA in 2002.

“And the Shicks were like, we’ve been through that, we’ve been trying to get Georgetown to change, they won’t do it.”

In 2003, Dieringer filed a complaint with the U.S. Board of Education against the university because of its confidentiality agreement for victims of violent crime and rape.

Deborah Shick says she is now waiting to see how the new legislation will affect Georgetown’s disclosure policy.

“It will be interesting to see if the administration chooses to ignore it and have another complaint filed with the Department of Education like they did with the sexual assault issue by Kate Deiringer and Security on Campus,” she said.

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