At a public hearing before the Utah State Records Committee on June 11, 2020, the University of Utah will defend its decision to protect the confidentiality of student mental health records. Counsel for the parents of Lauren McCluskey has sought information from the university about whether Lauren McCluskey obtained mental health counseling from the University of Utah and, if so, any records related to that counseling.
Our denial of the request is grounded in a commitment to protecting the privacy of adult students who seek mental health counseling on campus. This hearing is important because it will determine whether adult students enrolled in public colleges and universities in Utah can continue to access mental health care services on their campuses confident that their private records will be protected, even after their death, unless a court orders them released.
During the hearing, the university will neither confirm nor deny the existence of personal counseling records, in keeping with practice and in compliance with state law and national standards for mental health professionals. If such records do exist in this particular case, the only individuals on campus who would have access to them are mental health counselors. The university’s attorneys and administrators do not have access to such records.
The university shares the McCluskey family’s commitment to improved safety at colleges and universities across Utah and the country. However, we do not believe that violating the privacy rights of adult students would serve the mission of improved campus safety. All adult students deserve the right to seek mental health counseling knowing that what they disclose in confidence with a therapist or counselor, including concerns about school, parents, family or friends, will remain private.
It is unclear why attorneys representing the McCluskey family have not pursued these potential records as part of the discovery process in the lawsuit already filed in federal court. Absent direct student consent or court order, the university does not release student counseling records and has no intention of doing so in the future.
“It is imperative that we uphold the critical principle of confidentiality to maintain the trust of students seeking mental health treatment at the University Counseling Center by defending the confidentiality of their counseling records,” said Lauren Weitzman, director of the University of Utah Counseling Center.
The university’s full response to the records committee is available online.
Lauren McCluskey was murdered on the university campus on Oct. 22, 2018. Her murder was a pivotal moment for the U and since that time the university has taken significant and meaningful actions to improve campus safety and to provide support for victim-survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. The university is committed to ongoing actions to reduce the likelihood of such a tragedy happening again on campus.