This question pops up often.
Can an interested party record a school board or school committee meeting in New York State? [NJ and PA are touched upon as well.]
The short answer: Absolutely, provided that the recording process and its devices don’t disrupt the proceedings.
Remember, a public meeting constitutes quorum gathering to discuss issues. This means that you’re free to record regular school board meetings, budget hearings, committee meetings, etc. – any time there’s quorum/over half the official body in attendance with the intent to conduct public business, go ahead.
But school boards aren’t always into public records and accountability. When your New York State school district denies that you’re allowed to tape a meeting, cite the following precedents:
- Mitchell v. Board of Education of Garden City UFSD, 113 A.D.2d 924 (2nd Dept. 1985). This established that unobtrusive, handheld tape recording devices were acceptable.
- People v. Ystueta, 99 Misc.2d 1105 (District Court, Suffolk County, 1979). Established that prohibiting recording devices violated public policy.
- NYS Dept. of State Committee on Open Government OML-AO-3037, June 18, 1999. Backs up People v. Ystueta.
- Feldman v. Town of Bethel, 106 A.D.2d 695 (3rd Dep’t 1984). Use of recording device may not cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or disturb the meeting.
Then there’s Csorny, et al. v. Shoreham-Wading River Central School District, et al. (Index No. 31583/00) which not only upholds the above rulings, but cites supporting precedent in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey:
The overwhelming weight of authority from other states likewise supports our holding herein. In Hain v Board of Directors of Reading School Dist. (163 Pa Commw 479, 641 A2d 661), the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania struck a school board rule prohibiting the videotape recording of public meetings as violative of Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act. In Maurice River Tp. Bd. of Educ. v Maurice River Tp. Teachers Assn. (193 NJ Super 488, 475 A2d 59, affg 455 A2d 563), the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, similarly held that a school board could not enact a blanket prohibition against videotaping of public meetings, as such a rule violated New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act (NJSA 10:4-6 et seq; see also Sudol v Borough of North Arlington, 137 NJ Super 149, 348 A2d 216 [NJ Super]).
There ya go, kids. Record at will.
And when the Board members freak out, hand them a sheet of paper citing these precedents and make it very clear that their ignorance of the law in no way supersedes either statute or precedent.