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.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.