A Douglas County journalist was escorted from the Douglas County School Board’s Aug. 7 meeting and cited for disrupting a lawful assembly after he stepped out of a taped-off area the district had designated for video cameras.
Brian Malone of Malone Media Group said he couldn’t plug in his audio jack from the assigned spot, and could only see the backs of presenters’ heads, so he moved forward. Malone said he’d tried to address his concerns about the placement with school representatives and security earlier in the meeting, but, “They did not have a solution.”
“All I did was move my camera to the exact location that I had been given permission to shoot on every other meeting,” said Malone, who’s recorded the last several meetings.
School officials say they’d warned Malone earlier in the evening there would be consequences if he left the designated area. Castle Rock police said Malone didn’t immediately agree to leave the meeting, but did so after two more Castle Rock officers were called to join the one already assigned to staff the meeting.
“I have been banned from all Douglas County school property until further notice, and that includes not being able to take my own daughters to school,” said Malone. “They said there was a security issue. I want to know what that is. Surely, it can’t be me.”
Disrupting a lawful assembly is a misdemeanor, and if found guilty, Malone could face a fine ranging from $50 to $750, and the possibility of up to six months in jail.
Malone, a member of the Colorado Press Association, has produced several documentaries, most recently a film called “Patriocracy” that explores political polarization. A Castle Rock resident, Malone said he hadn’t yet decided what he would do with his video footage from the school board meetings.
“I have questions like any other parent,” he said. “I’m also a journalist. And this is a compelling story. I just want to get the story, from both sides. I’ve put in repeated requests both formally and informally for interviews for every board member and also for (Superintendent) Elizabeth Fagen. I have not gotten a consent or response.”
The school district issued an email response about the incident.
“Our goal is to conduct board meetings in a safe, professional manner,” it read. “Guidelines for taping are in place to avoid disruptions, prevent obstructed views for others, and security, while still providing access for cameras to record the proceedings. … Mr. Malone ignored multiple requests and warnings from security and deliberately broke the reasonable parameters that had been set. He was escorted from the room to avoid further disruption.”
Malone said he isn’t sure what he’ll do, though he plans to attend his scheduled October court date.
“This is very fresh,” he said. “I’ll go through the process. I believe I have a strong case under the First Amendment of the Constitution and under Colorado open-records law.”