MISSOULA — The Montana Supreme Court will hear arguments April 27 on author Jon Krakauer's lawsuit to obtain the disciplinary records of a former University of Montana quarterback accused of rape.
Krakauer, author of "Into the Wild," contends the records must be released in order for the public to understand what the college is doing to protect students from sexual assault.
State attorneys for Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian argue that releasing educational records pertaining to Jordan Johnson without consent could threaten Montana's federal education funding.
Johnson, who graduated last year, was accused of raping a female student in 2012. He was acquitted in state court.
Before the acquittal, a university court had recommended expulsion of an unnamed student — later identified as Johnson — after concluding the rape had occurred. However, the student was never expelled.
Krakauer argues the public has the right to know the reason Johnson wasn't expelled from UM. A court document said UM President Royce Engstrom agreed that a student accused of rape in 2012 — at the same time, and with identical facts, as the case against Johnson — should be expelled from UM.
And UM's student-athlete code of conduct states players must expect more scrutiny by the media and public than other students, according to another brief.
Krakauer argues Johnson gave up his expectation of privacy when he agreed to the code.
However, the commissioner's office argues that federal and state law prevent students' educational records from being released.
Kevin McRae, spokesman for the commissioner's office, said federal authorities have directed the office to refrain from opening records in this case.
"The United States government, including the U.S. Attorney and U.S. Department of Education, have told the commissioner's office that it is prohibited from releasing student records, and have also joined the lawsuit in opposition to Krakauer's case," McRae said in an email.
In an order issued this past week, the Supreme Court scheduled a hearing at Montana State University in Bozeman.