Can a citizen record board of education meetings?

December 7, 2015Articles

It’s not uncommon for a citizen to attend a regular or special board of education meeting with a video recording device. Although the board, is often recording the meeting in some fashion, the question often arises as to whether a citizen can also record. For example, is the board’s recording the “official recording,” therefore preventing a citizen from recording as well? This issue often leads to confrontational situations with citizens that could be avoided. For example, see this video of a recent county commission meeting where the commissioner’s counsel attempted to prevent a citizen from recording.

The West Virginia Ethics Commission has long opinioned the public has the right to record public meetings. These opinions are based upon the clear language set forth in the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act (Act).

As the Ethics Commission has opined:

The Act gives . . . the public the right to record the open sessions of public meetings. A government body [such as a board of education] may not prohibit recording, and may regulate the placement and use of recording equipment only to the extent necessary ‘to prevent undue interference with a meeting.’ The fact that the [governing body] or citizens object to having their public comments recorded does not deprive the media and the public of their rights to record the proceedings, and is not a factor to be considered in determining the that the use of recording equipment is causing under interference with a meeting.

For some additional tips regarding the Act see Quick Reference Guide for the WV Open Meeting Act (County Boards of Education).

Should you have any questions on this issue or any issues please feel free to contact a member of Dinsmore's Education Law Practice Group.