Monday, January 16, 2012

The impasse in Española

In the Journal this morning, link.

The is a confrontation going on in Española NM. The fight is between the free press and the government. More specifically, the Rio Grande Sun, link, and the leadership of the Española Public Schools.

Under dispute; whether the press needs permission from the government, to investigate and report upon it?

The complete dependence of Democracy upon a free press,
requires no further explanation or defense.

Only when the press is able to report the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the ethically redacted truth, are the people empowered to create and sustain government of the people, by the people and for the people.

The First Amendment addresses the issue by prohibiting government from creating laws that restrict a free press; by prohibiting schools boards from creating rules that keep the press from getting to the truth.

According to the Journal, Rio Grande Sun editor Lou Mattei is looking into possible legal action over what appears to be a pretty clear example of conduct the Constitution specifically and explicitly prohibits. One would hope they would. Bear in mind suing the government requires dedicating stretched resources to sue an opponent with an unlimited budget; in this case a large bore pipeline to education funding.

The leadership of the Española public school has reportedly backed down from their original demand that reporters must get permission from district Superintendent Evelyn Maruska before going on campus or interviewing staff or students, including pre-approval of their specific questions.

The Supt, Evelyn Maruska said:

“What I have requested of the Rio Grande Sun is … that they would provide what their questions are, and also state the who, what, where and why. … That’s only because I want the principals or the directors to be able to answer the questions, or if they did not have all of the answers, they would have time to be able to research.”
What she said was, if there are principals or directors who are unable to answer questions because they don't know the answers; they will have time to do research to cover up ignorance that could be evidence of incompetence.

The premise is so indefensible, the Superintendent is reported to be backing down. Her current and equally indefensible position is;
“All that I am asking for is the subject or the topic. Let’s say that they want to do a piece on uniforms in the school. Tell me it’s about uniforms — that’s all.”
As is the custom, the retreat came without any explanation, defense, or even acknowledgement of the former, even more blatantly unconstitutional position.

The press must have unlimited access to government in order for the people to have unlimited access to the truth about the spending of power and resources that belong to them.

The government is protected from unwarranted intrusion of the press by laws that specifically restrict access. It cannot be allowed to protect itself by inventing restrictions of its own.

Nor can it be allowed to protect itself through indefensible interpretations of legitimate laws.

The leadership of EPS avers; their interpretation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, link, requires them to keep Sun photographers from taking pictures of students without their parents written permission.

The simple truth is the Act only requires schools to have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record.

The EPS, if it's anything like the APS, will use operational funds, tax dollars that could be spent in classrooms and on education, to hire lawyers to litigate their exception to the law.

As is customary, any legal bills and fines resulting from deliberate misconduct by politicians and public servants, will be paid by taxpayers and not those politicians and public servants themselves.

If you are wondering about the relationship between the press and the leadership of the public schools here in Albuquerque; there is no impasse. The leaderships of the schools and the establishment's media are in accord; the leadership of the APS can violate the civil rights of the press, even to the point of using a publicly funded private police force to arrest members of the press who insist upon asking inconvenient questions, as long as they; the Journal, KRQE, KOAT, KOB and KKOB have as much access as they want.

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