Colorado

Dougco lifts ban against ejected journalist

The Douglas County School District on Wednesday lifted its order prohibiting journalist Brian Malone from coming onto district property to record school board meetings, after the American Civil Liberties Union intervened on Malone’s behalf.

Castle Rock police officers prepare to eject Brian Malone, right, a Dougco parent and journalist who was taping the Dougco school board’s Aug. 7 meeting. Photo courtesy Strong Schools Coalition.

Malone was ejected from a school board meeting Aug. 7 after he stepped outside a newly-created taping area for journalists and declined requests to move back inside. He was cited for disrupting a lawful assembly and prohibited from stepping foot on any district property.

The district later amended the order to allow Malone, a Dougco parent, to go to his daughters’ schools. But officials prohibited him from “using any device to record any audio or video” at those schools or any district property without the prior approval of administrator Mark Knapp. And they said he was supposed to petition for that approval five days in advance.

Malone hired two attorneys who, working with the ACLU, sent a letter Monday to Dougco officials demanding the district lift its orders:

Mr. Malone fully intends to continue to exercise his constitutionally-protected right to attend public meetings of the School Board, and to videotape and record those meetings, on the same legal footing as any other member of the public or press.

Accordingly, we hereby demand that DCSD immediately withdraw the directives prohibiting Mr. Malone from attending any future School Board meeting, or the meeting of any other local public body conducted on DCSD grounds. We also demand that DCSD immediately withdraw the further directive that requires Mr. Malone (unlike any other member of the public or press) to submit a petition five business days in advance of any such public meeting and receive prior approval before engaging in audio or video recording of such meetings.

In addition, the letter stated:

Please respond with an affirmative statement that DCSD has lifted these two unconstitutional restrictions on Mr. Malone’s rights as a member of the press, no later than close of business on Tuesday, August 14, 2012. If we do not receive such written confirmation from you by that time, we intend to seek judicial relief from the unconstitutional restrictions the District has placed upon Mr. Malone.

Wednesday, the ACLU sent out a press release stating the prohibitions against Mr. Malone had been lifted. Douglas County spokesman Randy Barber confirmed that and said Malone had agreed to stay inside the taping area.

Barber released a letter sent from the district to Malone’s attorneys, along with a statement from Rob Ross, the district’s legal counsel:

“After Mr. Malone’s ACLU-paid lawyer conceded to us that Mr. Malone will abide by the district’s rules for tripod mounted cameras and not disrupt any more board meetings, the district lifted its order banning him from district property,” Ross said. “We also made it clear that if Mr. Malone again disrupts a board meeting, the district will again have him removed and take any further action necessary.”

Before the Aug. 7 meeting, journalists and their cameras were allowed to move freely around the board room, with many choosing to set up so their cameras faced public speakers. The new taped area requires them to video from the side. Malone, at the Aug. 7 meeting, moved his camera to a spot he had previously used to capture speakers’ faces.

“Our goal is to conduct board meetings in a safe, professional manner,” Ross said in his statement. “Guidelines for camera equipment are in place to avoid disruptions, prevent obstructed views for citizens wishing to attend board meetings, and to maintain safety and security for all those in attendance. These guidelines accomplish the goal while still providing access for camera equipment.”

ACLU executive director Mark Silverstein clearly saw Wednesday’s action as a victory for Malone.

“We are encouraged by the school district’s prompt action that avoids a lawsuit and restores Mr. Malone’s constitutional right to attend meetings of public bodies under the same terms as any other journalist or member of the public,” he said. “Access to public meetings for the general public and the media in particular is an essential part of a democracy.”

Malone, whose company is Malone Media Group based in Castle Rock, said he is producing a documentary on the deep divide in the philosophies surrounding the district’s recent reform initiatives.

“I’m a free man once again,” he said.

Malone’s attorneys, Steve Zansberg and Chris Beall, are known for their work on behalf of the press. Zansberg represents media outlets, including the Denver Post, in their effort to unseal documents in the case of the Aurora theater shooting.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”