RICHMOND — A proposal to exempt college students’ cellphone numbers and private email addresses from public records cleared the Virginia Senate Friday.

The legislation by Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, would add student telephone numbers and personal email addresses to a list of scholastic records exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of college students at Virginia’s public colleges and universities are typically considered to be public information through FOIA. Usually, students have to “opt-out” if they don’t want their personal information included in a college’s campus directory.

“A lot of folks didn’t know, but the personal contact information for all of our students at our universities and colleges of higher learning here in the commonwealth was open to the Freedom of Information Act,” Suetterlein said. “A lot of folks found that out when they received a whole lot of text messages this year that they did not want.”

The bills address concerns raised during the 2017 election when a progressive political group requested campus directories from all of the state’s public universities. The group sought student cellphone numbers in order to seek to drive up voter turnout for Democratic candidates.

A similar bill by Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, failed in a House of Delegates subcommittee this week.

The House will vote on a broader student privacy proposal next week. The legislation introduced by Del. Tony Wilt, R-Rockingham, deals with more scholastic records than those outlined in Suetterlein’s bill.

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