Two days after Douglas County School District officials ejected a freelance journalist from a board meeting, the district amended its order barring Brian Malone from school property.
The Castle Rock parent is now allowed to drop off and pick up his children from school, but is still otherwise banned from all district property.
“The district has banned Mr. Malone from all district property without express permission with the exception of his children’s school,” school spokeswoman Cinamon Watson wrote in an Aug. 9 email.
Malone, of Malone Media Group, was escorted from the Douglas County School Board’s Aug. 7 meeting and cited for disrupting a lawful assembly after he stepped outside a taped-off area designated for video cameras so he could get a better shot.
A Douglas County schools security official and three Castle Rock police officers escorted Malone from the building. School officials had warned Malone earlier in the evening that there would be consequences if he crossed the taped line.
District officials say the designated video-camera area, a new addition to the school board’s Castle Rock meeting room, was created because of concerns about security and visibility for audience members.
“It’s not a movie set,” said district legal counsel Rob Ross. “People can record meetings, watch meetings and participate within the rules of the board. We don’t want our meetings disrupted.”
Malone, who has recorded the last several meetings, says the new location was too far from the audio jack for his cable to stretch, and placed his camera at an angle that only allowed video of the backs of presenters’ heads.
An independent filmmaker, Malone has produced several documentaries including “Blinky,” about former Denver children’s television host Blinky the Clown, and most recently, “Patriocracy,” which focuses on political polarization. He hasn’t decided how to use the information gathered to date on the school district, saying it’s a “compelling story” that garnered his attention as a parent. He’s not being paid to research the Douglas County School District, he said.
Malone said he’s been frustrated by repeated, unaccepted efforts to talk to school board members.
“A guy from Castle Rock can go to Washington, D.C., without any connections and interview 30 or more of our top national leaders, but I can’t even get an interview with my own school board?” he said.
Malone said he’s exploring his legal options.
“I think I’m considering doing what any responsible news organization would do, and that is to seek a court order against the district to allow me back on school property unconditionally and to continue to cover meetings in an adequate, reasonable location as I have before,” he said.
If Malone asks permission to return, Ross said, “I guess there will have to be a discussion about ground rules and whether he’s going to comply with those reasonable parameters that we set.”
Ross said the video area, and the decision to remove Malone after he left it, were at the discretion of school security staff, not the board. Douglas County Schools’ security area manager Mark Knapp didn’t err by initially telling Malone the order to stay off school property included going to his children’s schools, Ross said.
“From what I know, it was done properly,” he said.