The University of Utah is refusing to release the counseling records of murdered student-athlete Lauren McCluskey, who had spoken to a school psychologist hours before she was murdered, claiming they’re confidential even in death.
McCluskey, 21, was shot several times by her ex-boyfriend Melvin Rowland, 37, on October 22, 2018, outside her dorm room in Salt Lake City. He later died by suicide.
They met at a bar and their relationship crumbled when she learned Rowland lied about his name, age and status as a registered sex offender.
She had confided in campus police that he was extorting her and threatened to release personal images of her if she didn’t pay him $1,000.
McCluskey went to the counseling center twice. Once on October 15, 2018, three days after she first talked to campus police about Rowland, and again on October 22, 2018, hours before she was killed.
The University of Utah is refusing to release the counseling records of murdered student-athlete Lauren McCluskey, 21, who was killed in October 2018. The school says the records are confidential, even in death
She visited the counseling center on campus twice, including the day she died. Her parents Matt and Jill McCluskey (together at her vigil above) first petitioned for the records to be released in December 2019
Her parents Matt and Jill had gone to court to demand the school hand over counseling records from McCluskey’s visit to the counseling center.
‘We believe she went to the counselor on the day of her death to express her concerns,’ Jim McConkie, the attorney representing the family said. He says what she said in that meeting is ‘really relevant’, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
In a filing Monday the university said the school can’t release those counselling reports to McCluskey’s parents and their attorneys because they’re considered confidential.
Last month Utah’s State Records Committee ordered the university to release the reports, but in the filing the school is appealing the decision.
‘Mental health records often contain highly sensitive and personal information, the disclosure of which would constitute a gross invasion of personal privacy,’ the university argues in its lawsuit.
There’s no record of any school psychologist calling police based on what McCluskey said that day. The family believes this points to negligence on the counseling center’s part.
McCluskey, 21, was shot several times by her ex-boyfriend Melvin Rowland, 37, on October 22, 2018 outside her dorm room in Salt Lake City. He later died by suicide. They met at a bar and their relationship crumbled when she learned Rowland lied about his name, age and the fact he was a registered sex offender
On Monday the school filed an appeal saying counseling records are confidential even in death. University officials say releasing them would have ‘chilling effect’ on students who may avoid going to counselors for fear what they say could be released
McCluskey’s parents are separately suing the university for $56million saying the school didn’t take their daughter’s concerns and reports of her ex-boyfriend seriously. That lawsuit focuses on how the campus police department did little to investigate McCluskey’s multiple calls for helps after reporting she was being harassed and extorted by someone she briefly dated.
In May it was revealed that when McCluskey reported to one of the officers how she was being extorted, the cop Officer Miguel Deras, who went on to work for the Logan Police Department, allegedly saved the photos to his phone and showed at least one male co-worker, according to the Tribune.
The lawsuit is in part against Deras after an independent review found Deras did very little to investigate McCluskey’s complaints. The student died nine days after filing the report.
One of Deras’ colleagues confirmed to campus police that he had been shown the images by Deras, with another officer confirming he had heard the conversation taking place.
McCluskey’s parents believe other school officials, including campus housing, were aware of the threats against their daughter and failed to act.
Her parents are also seeking to know if McCluskey told the counselor anything about her concerns that hasn’t already been brought to light.
‘The idea that a parent could not see the medical records of their deceased daughter seems unjustifiable, especially in this case where a crime has occurred,’ McConkie added.
The family first asked for the counseling records in December 2019 through a public records request, but the school denied it.
McCluskey’s parents are separately suing the university for $56million saying the school didn’t take their daughter’s concerns and reports of her ex-boyfriend seriously. That lawsuit focuses on how the campus police department did little to investigate McCluskey’s multiple calls for helps after reporting she was being harassed and extorted by someone she briefly dated. McCluskey pictured signing a letter of intent to attend the University of Iowa in 2014
After appeals the attorneys representing the family took the case to the State Records Committee, which oversees and rules on disputes over public documents.
They argued that the student’s mother Jill is her daughter’s legal representative in death and she should be able to access the counselling reports. Utah state code allows for such an exception saying ‘the authorized agent of the client or patient’ has the same rights to medical records as the patient does.
Then in June the committee voted 5-1 to have the school turn over the records.
The university’s lawyers are pushing back against releasing the documents saying it would ‘violate ethical standards for patient confidentiality’.
‘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,’ the school said in a statement.
The school says in the new lawsuit that releasing the records would have a ‘chilling effect’ on other students. If the records are released other students may avoid seeking help from a therapist for fear what they say could be released.
The case will now be heard before a 3rd District judge.
McCluskey’s parents have filed two lawsuits that are pending in the courts. One in the state and one in the federal system arguing the school could have done more to protect their daughter given she spoke with campus police.
The University has denied any responsibility in the murder.