A&A: Can a School Board Restrict Recording of a Meeting to a Designated Area?

Q: Can a school board allow the public to record the meeting only from a certain designated area in the back of the room? Or can a person record from their seat outside the designated area if they are not disrupting the meeting at any time?

A: Cal. Gov. Code § 54953.5 provides: “Any person attending an open and public meeting of a legislative body of a local agency shall have the right to record the proceedings with an audio or video recorder or a still or motion picture camera in the absence of a reasonable finding by the legislative body of the local agency that the recording cannot continue without noise, illumination, or obstruction of view that constitutes, or would constitute, persistent disruption of the proceedings.”

Therefore, unless you are creating a “persistent disruption,” and the legislative body has made a “reasonable finding” that your recording is disrupting the proceedings, then you are permitted to record the meeting—presumably, from wherever you are sitting.  We are unaware of any provision in the Brown Act that permits a legislative body to generally restrict recording to one location only.  The Brown Act only authorizes the legislative body to restrict recording activities after making a specific finding that “the recording” (note that it does not say “any recording,” which implies that the finding must be made on a case-by-case basis) is disrupting the proceedings.  However, to our knowledge, this precise question has not been addressed by a California court, so we cannot say for certain how a reviewing court would interpret this provision of the law.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.