Do reporters have to sign in at public schools?
Q: Do reporters have to sign in to interview students/teachers on public school campuses?
A: Short answer: No.Long answer: Section 627.2 of the California Penal Code requires all “outsiders” to register with the principal (or designated official) before entering the buildings or grounds of a public school. However, the definition of “outsider” expressly excludes reporters and other media representatives. (See Penal Code section 627.1.) Thus, California law provides that reporters may enter the grounds and buildings of a public school without prior permission. (In re Rudolfo A., 110 Cal. App. 3d 845, 852 (1980) (“The general laws thus fail to prohibit unauthorized entry or presence on school grounds except under particular circumstances . . . .”).)An opinion from the California Attorney General, often cited by school administrators, argues that reasonable restrictions may be placed upon members of the news media when they seek access to school grounds. (See 79 Cal. Op. Att’y. Gen. 58 (June 10, 1996).)
According to the Attorney General’s Opinion, the Legislature has not authorized unlimited and unrestricted access to school premises by news media representatives or anyone else, and school officials may deny access to members of the news media, as they may deny access to anyone, if their presence would interfere with the peaceful conduct of the activities of the school. The validity of the Attorney General’s opinion is questionable. At least with respect to requiring reporters to register before going on school grounds, it appears to be directly contrary to California law. Moreover, unlike a court decision, it does not establish a controlling rule for how the law is to be applied. Therefore, the law still provides that reporters are not required to register before going on school grounds.Note, however, that if you are on school grounds without having registered or otherwise obtained permission, you may be required to leave.
California law provides that people who are not pupils, parents, or employees of a public school, and who are not required by their employment to be at a public school, must leave the school if requested to do so by the principal or the designee of the principal. A request that someone leave the school can only be made on the basis that “it appears reasonable to the principal, or the designee of the principal to conclude that the continued presence of the person requested to depart would be disruptive of, or would interfere with, classes or other activities of the public school program.” (See Cal. Educ. Code § 32211.) Failing to leave after being requested to do so, pursuant to this standard, is a misdemeanor, punishable pursuant to section 626.8 of the Penal Code.
However, one may not be convicted of a misdemeanor under this section of the Penal Code unless: (1) one was present at the school “without lawful business thereon”; (2) one’s presence or acts “interfere with the peaceful conduct of the activities of the school or disrupt the school or its pupils or school activities”; and (3) one remains on or returns to the school grounds within seven days after being asked to leave.So, you might be able to challenge the arrest, but the standard is ambiguous. It’s probably best just to leave.