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OU student says University records are shrouded in secrecy

NORMAN, Okla. – Parking tickets are pretty common on many college campuses. 

However, one Oklahoma student says he thinks certain people are getting special treatment when it comes to paying fines.

An ongoing battle between the University of Oklahoma and one of its Journalism Students has made its way to Federal Court.

Joey Stipek says he’s battled OU for years, over whether or not parking tickets on campus are public record.

Stipek claims the records are being hidden to keep the special treatment of so-called elite students a secret.

“You see students getting favoritism, whether it’s student government, a student whose parents are donors, or student athletes, they get their tickets excused,” said Stipek

Stipek says he took his allegations to the District Court of Cleveland County.

The director of the Open Records Office for OU, Rachel McCombs, says there’s a simple reason why the citations are kept private.

According to court records, “The citations were protected under the federal educational rights and privacy act and, thus, exempt from disclosure under the Oklahoma Open Records Act,” said McCombs.

Stipek’s attorney Nicholas Harrison said “If these were academic records that are protected by F.E.R.P.A., you don’t leave transcripts on the windshield of a car… Those are locked up and those are protected. Those types of records are a completely different animal than the citations that he’s asking for.”

A representative for the Department of Education says OU’s interpretation of the act is wrong.

NewsChannel 4’s Andrew Donley asked “Are parking tickets part of an education standard protected by F.E.R.P.A.?”

The Department of Education Official said “No, parking tickets are not educational records. They are not protected through F.E.R.P.A.”

“So what basis would the school have for claiming that?” Donley asked.

The Department of Education Official said “Yeah they’re incorrect in their estimation. Parking tickets are not considered education records.”

With the court case now heading to federal court, Stipek says it’s not about the tickets anymore. He says It’s the principle of maintaining access to the truth and protecting that right.

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything,” Stipek said.