Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bullies at the Board Table

Remember a few months ago when our own Joshua Starr invented the word "cyberbullying" to describe Twitter feeds about his decision to close schools?  Remember Dr. Starr's memo to parents?  His committee to evaluate cyberbullying?

Dr. Starr doesn't like being the target, but he is just fine when his staff does the bullying.

Recently, I learned of two instances where BOE staff pulled out cameras and took pictures of individuals attending Board of Education meetings.  One was a committee meeting concerning staff use of credit cards. Both meetings are subject to the Open Meetings Act and the public is invited.  Or maybe not.

I couldn't believe that staff actually took pictures, so I filed a request under the Maryland Public Information Act.  

Sad, but true.  Here is the response I received from MCPS:

. . . As for Ms. Steinberg, she did take a photo during the Board of Education retreat and it is attached. 
Regarding your question about policies: There are no policies that would limit the right of anyone to take a photo or video during a public meeting or in a public space under these circumstances.  
Ms. Steinberg is the Board of Education's Staff Assistant for Legislative and Intergovernmental Relations.  Before she snapped the picture she said she needed to "document this."

Why take a picture of only one member of the public?  Would a sign-in sheet satisfy who attends a meeting?  Everyone signs, or everyone doesn't.  But a picture of only one person?

I am extremely concerned about the chilling effects of the actions of Ms. Steinberg or other individuals employed by the Board of Education on community involvement.  You've got to be a pretty tough individual to participate in BOE meetings when you are bullied by the staff.  In view of the the school system's concern as voiced in the press and at Board meetings issues with stakeholder engagement, actions by these individuals may in fact discourage public participation. 

1 comment:

  1. Been going on for years. See for video of an MCPS official taking a cellphone photo of a community member participating in a "feasibility study." (Why take a photo? Because someone was raising their hand, in order to try to ask a question. Don't call on them - you don't really want their input - rather, photograph them, to send a message to everyone in the room.)


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