Note: This story was last updated at 3:39 p.m. Sept. 15.
As originally drafted, the proposed policy change would have required anyone who wanted to use a camera, camcorder, or other photographic equipment at an Oak Ridge school board meeting to first seek permission from the board.
But education officials suggested it went too far. While school board members approved it 4-0 on first reading last month, they asked Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Tom Bailey to revise it.
â€œI donâ€™t think we want to ban it,â€ Bailey said, referring to the use of cameras. â€œI think we reserve the right to is the right language.â€
The policy change had been recommended by the Tennessee School Boards Association, and it was reportedly intended to prevent meeting disruptions. It was apparently meant to cover recordings by audience members and not the school systemâ€™s public television broadcasts of its meetings.
School board members said they donâ€™t think meeting disruptions have been a problem in Oak Ridge, and board member Dan DiGregorio asked if the policy was necessary.
â€œSince 1971, when I joined the Oak Ridge schools, I have not known of any problem regarding recording of Board of Education meetings,â€ DiGregorio said in a Friday e-mail to Oak Ridge City Council candidate Trina Baughn, who raised concerns about the proposal.
School board member Angi Agle said the board opens most meetings with student performances, and she would not want to deter parents from taking pictures or videos of their children.
â€œSince all of our meetings are televised and anyone who wishes to do so can record them, it seems sort of pointless,â€ Agle said of the proposed policy change.
Still, board members said they want to have some legal backing in cases where someone operating camera equipment might be disruptive or interfere with a meeting. With or without revisions, however, board members said they donâ€™t have to approve the policy change on second and final reading Sept. 24.
“We are under no obligation to rubber-stamp any proposed policy from any source, and generally do not do so,” Agle said.
Baughn said she had been contacted by a citizen concerned about the policy as originally drafted.
â€œThis proposed change is very concerning because it would essentially eliminate what little transparency your board currently offers the public,â€ Baughn said.
In response, Oak Ridge Board of Education Chairman Keys Fillauer said the board actually approved the following statement: â€œThe board reserves the right to restrict the use of cameras, camcorders, or other photographic equipment that interferes or disrupts a board meeting.
â€œThis is no way bans any type of coverage of our meetings,â€ he said.
Later Friday, Baughn said the new language sounded less foreboding, but school board members had to consider potential unintended applications of the policy.
“Suppose a future board of lesser integrity were to decide that certain television reporters were disruptive, or that an audience member who is taking pictures with a flash was interfering?” Baughn said. “The way this policy is proposed to be written … that future board would be well within policy to forbid both the reporter and the audience member from using their devices.”