Supreme Court rejects appeal from dad on recording school meetings about son

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from a father about whether he had the right to video record meetings with school officials about his son’s special education program.

The nation’s highest court turned down the appeal from Scott Pitta, a father of a son with special needs, who wanted to video record a meeting between himself and officials in the school district of Bridgewater, Mass., about his son’s Individual Education Program (IEP).

An IEP is a document that details what services a student with disabilities needs to receive to meet their educational goals. The petition notes that schools are required to consult with parents about a student’s IEP under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Pitta informed school officials he would be video recording meetings with them about his son’s IEP after he realized that the minutes taken on previous meetings were “incomplete,” according to the petition.

The issue arose after school officials said that his son no longer required an IEP, which Pitta disagreed with, according to the petition. In a Sept. 20, 2022, meeting with officials, Pitta requested that the session be recorded “because he did not trust that the Respondents’ own minutes would accurately reflect the relevant statements.”

The school officials allegedly refused to allow video recording but offered to audio record the meeting instead. Pitta found that offer “unsatisfactory” because it would be difficult to determine who was speaking, according to the petition.

Pitta later filed a lawsuit against the officials on Sept. 28, 2022, alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights. The lawsuit was dismissed by the district court and later by an appeals court.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that the First Amendment does not allow video recording of public officials in all instances.

“Pitta’s argument ignores established limitations in First Circuit law, which permit recording of government officials performing their duties only in indisputably public places in full view of the public, and even then, only when the act of filming would not hinder officials in the performance of their public duties and would serve public interests,” the court ruled in January.

Adam Shelton, a staff attorney of the Goldwater Institute who is representing Pitta, said they were “disappointed” in the Supreme Court’s order not to take up the case in a statement to The Hill.

“Refusing to allow parents to record a meeting with government officials about their own child in their own home violates the First Amendment,” Shelton said.

“We are disappointed the Supreme Court refused to hear this important case, but we will continue to fight in courtrooms and legislatures across the country to protect parental rights, including the right to record a meeting with school officials about their own child,” he added.

This story was updated at 4:23 p.m.

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