Videotaping a Public Meeting: Yea or Nea?

Charles Davis
July 11, 2008 — 1,134 views  
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A Vienna, Virginia, resident may pursue legal action against Fairfax County Public Schools after being told he had to turn off his video camera or leave Westfield High School during a meeting on the western county high school boundary study Dec. 3.

Bruce Bennett had started to record one of 50 small group discussions taking place in classrooms at the event when a police officer summoned him to the hall and asked him to put his video camera away.

When Bennett refused to stop filming, school officials and police officers escorted him to the entrance and asked him to leave the building, he said.

"They publicly humiliated me when they removed me from [the] room especially in light of the fact that I was just doing what I have a right to do," said Bennett, whose neighborhood would be affected under some redistricting proposals...

Bennett he intends to try and film the third boundary study meeting Dec. 18. He was able to film the first boundary meeting on Nov. 26 in its entirety, he said.

If he informs the school system ahead of time, officials would be happy to find Bennett a room with people who are not uncomfortable around the camera, said Regnier.

It can often be a better tactical move to give officials a heads up when you will want to record or videotape a meeting, said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Charles Davis

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Charles N. Davis is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and the executive director for the National Freedom of Information Coalition, headquartered at the School. Davis' scholarly research focuses on access to governmental information and new media law, including jurisdictional issues, intellectual property and online libel. He has earned a Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his work in furthering freedom of information and the University of Missouri-Columbia Provost's Award for Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching, as well as the Faculty-Alumni Award.