Lights, Cameras, Action
Loudon residents, school board comfortable with camera at meetings

The Loudon County Board Of Education made it clear at Thursday's workshop meeting that there would be no camera bans imposed by the board on anybody.

The TSBA, Tennessee School Board Association, has recommended a policy change to all Tennessee school boards that would allow the boards to ban all cameras from board meetings. Problem is, according to the Tennessee Attorney General, such a policy would be a violation of the state constitution. Yet the TSBA continues to support the position. This brings into question of the TSBA's reliability.

TSBA is an organization established to assist and support local school boards with training and policy development. Their decision to continue to support a policy that has clearly been deemed to violate the constitution brings into to question their reliability and credibility and the need for any local school board to maintain their affiliation to TSBA.

The board will vote on the policy at next weeks board meeting.

Loudon residents, school board comfortable with camera at meetings

By Hugh Willett
LOUDON - A Tennessee School Board Association recommendation that would allow school boards to restrict the use of cameras and video recorders from board meetings found little support from the members of the Loudon County School Board on Thursday night.

During a review of TSBA's proposed policy changes, board members and residents expressed their concerns about the policy. Some were concerned that the Nashville-based TSBA's suggested policy was unconstitutional.

"I can't believe you're getting such bad legal advice," said Loudon resident Shirley Harrison.

Pat Hunter, a Loudon County activist who has recently posted video clips of school board members and other county officials on her Web site, said she was concerned about taxpayer money being used to fund TSBA.

"We pay $10,000 a year to TSBA," she said. "We could be sued if they give us the wrong advice."

Chuck Cagle, an attorney representing the Loudon County Board of Education, said he also had problems with the TSBA opinion.

"This is not our policy. It was made by TSBA," said Schools Director Wayne Honeycutt.

Honeycutt explained to the board that it is the obligation of the director's office to present the TSBA proposals but that his office had not endorsed the policy.

"I would suggest we leave it out," Honeycutt said.

Board members said that they were concerned that TSBA would cite an October 1995 state attorney general's opinion supporting the right of school boards to restrict video recording when a December 1995 AG opinion specifically rescinded the first opinion.

"This policy isn't even legal. Now we have to wonder about everything we hear from TSBA," said school board member Van Shaver.

School board member Lisa Russell said her confidence in TSBA had been shaken by the fact that correct legal opinions were not provided.

Frank Gibson, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, agreed.

"The TSBA position is flawed, and I would expect an organization that represents school board members across the state would provide better legal advice," Gibson said.

Steve Doremus, a spokesman for the TSBA, told The Associated Press on Thursday the policy proposal isn't meant to ban media or regular citizens from recording meetings but to allow boards to limit an excessive number of cameras that may cause a disruption.

Loudon County Schools against banning cameras

6 News Anchor/Reporter

LENOIR CITY (WATE) -- A recommendation from the Tennessee School Board Association isn't sitting well with some area school officials and citizens. They're questioning whether school boards should be allowed to restrict cameras from meetings.  

"Oh that's crazy. We're not going to do that," Loudon County School Board member Van Shaver says.

He's against any type of ban on cameras at meetings, even the board's existing policy that allows it to restrict the media.

"TSBA is now recommending not just the press, but also the public be barred from bringing in video, audio, still cameras or anything like that," Shaver says.

The Tennessee School Board Association's latest advice also doesn't sit well with the director of schools, who instead wants to eliminate the existing ban. 

"I have an issue with this one as well," Director Wayne Honeycutt said at Thursday evening's school board workshop. 

So does community activist Pat Hunter, who records local meetings for her Web site

"If you care about openness and transparency in government, you should be concerned because school boards across the state are strapped, and if the TSBA has created a situation where they're promoting a policy that could literally create lawsuits all over the state, the only ones who will suffer are the children, who need the money badly," Hunter says.

The Loudon County School Board will vote on the TSBA's recent recommendation as well as its current policy at its meeting next Thursday.