Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Streisand Effect at BCS

In 2003 Barbra Streisand sued a photographer to block publication of photos of her home, citing privacy concerns.  In ruling against her the courts found that she did not have an absolute right of privacy, and that the public had a right to see the images. The irony was that in filing the lawsuit, she brought far more attention to the picture than would ever have been generated had she simply kept silent.   (Wikipedia page)

Why do I bring this up?  Strangely, BCS seems unaware of the Streisand Effect.  They have recently spent considerable legal effort to prevent the public from viewing the depositions of BCS Board Chair Ken Moore and former BCS Foundation Chair David Spector.

A member of the public filed a CPRA request asking the District to provide a copy of Moore's and Spector's depositions.  We get CPRA requests all the time- it is part of being a public entity.  The laws in California properly favor disclosure of public records so that the public understands how the government is doing their business.  It's not surprising that someone would want to see these videos.  After all, BCS, (a purportedly public school) is suing LASD, a public school district, for more than $2M in legal fees.  The basis of the BCS claim is certainly a matter of public interest.  Going straight to the source material- the depositions- is actually pretty smart, since it would give the viewer a direct view into the rationale of those who filed the lawsuit in the first place.

BCS started by suggesting that Ken Moore was concerned for his safety.  This was provably false, though.  (See my other post today).  Eventually, the truth comes out, though.  In an ex parte hearing with Judge Lucas, the BCS lawyers confessed that they wanted to prevent copying of the deposition "[b]ecause we believe there could be misuse, embarrassment, [and] harassment [of] our parent volunteers"   Really?  That's what we're worried about?  That someone is going to poke fun of the BCS Board? 

I try to give deference to the courts.  They are charged with a difficult job- sorting out this kind of dispute.  In this particular instance, though- I don't understand this ruling, try though I might.  Parody (the basis of BCS's request for the protective order) is protected First Amendment speech.  The First Amendment was specifically created to protect objectionable speech. After all, speech that is not objectionable speech rarely needs to be protected.  If it were up to me, I'd place the First Amendment and transparency of government above the possible embarrassment of a couple of community members who are suing the public schools.  That isn't my call to make, so I will respect the court order so I won't be posting the video here.  (For the record, I don't have a copy of it).  But I would encourage the public to get to know who these folks are.    

I hate to say this, but to my mind, this comes with the territory.  I've been on the LASD Board for 4 1/2 years.  In that time, people have said made plenty of false accusations and posted ridiculous and sometimes hateful things on Facebook, the Town Crier comments section, and elsewhere.  I don't like it, but it's part of the gig.  As citizens, we have a constitutional right to complain about our government.  When you step forward and take a leadership position to help govern a public school district, particularly as president or chairman of the Board signing  letters to the community and declarations to the court, well, some folks won't like what is being said.  But I didn't run to the courts and seek to hide from the public - all while spending the taxpayers' money.