Editorial: Good for District 211 to video record meetings

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted12/15/2016 3:00 PM
  • Palatine Schaumburg High School District 211 board members and administrators discuss the possibility of video recording and broadcasting their meetings earlier this year.

      Palatine Schaumburg High School District 211 board members and administrators discuss the possibility of video recording and broadcasting their meetings earlier this year. Eric Peterson | Staff Photographer

Reporters who got jobs at newspapers to avoid being on TV now routinely do broadcasts. Cook County courts, one of the last bulwarks against cameras, is video recording proceedings, as many suburban courts have done for years. Classroom videos offer a new way to learn, supplementing or replacing in-person lectures.

While we sympathize with those who remain uncomfortable with being recorded, we commend others who are making use of video to reach new groups of people.

Palatine Schaumburg High School District 211 is jumping on that bandwagon, with the board announcing it will begin recording meetings and posting them online in 2017. The board will spend $16,532 to buy and install equipment and could post its first meeting video in March.

It's an important and valuable step for District 211, which has been roiled by controversy over transgender students' locker room use and has come to understand first hand the potential value of complete, unaltered records of board meetings at a time when misinformation is rampant in the public arena. Other boards may want to consider the video recording before they learn its value the hard way.

While all public boards keep written minutes of proceedings and must continue to do so, those aren't intended to be verbatim accounts of public discussions. District 211 -- like most school districts -- already makes good use of newsletters, a website and face-to-face meetings to convey information, but those messages are necessarily filtered to be concise and clear. They don't provide background or every detail of discussion. That can be a drawback for people committed to a particular issue -- and an opportunity for distortion for those who want to press a particular point of view.

District 211 made its decision after community members began recording meetings and posting videos online. There's nothing wrong with that, but an official version serves as an important check while showing a commitment to transparency.

Anyone who's watched a meeting video knows many of them could be used as sleep aids. Viewership might be low, but that's beside the point. If a few dozen people watch, it's more than attend most meetings in person. In times of controversy, the recordings are likely to be invaluable for the board and for the community.

District 211 has yet to approve a policy for recordings. We urge one that calls for videos to be posted promptly and without editing, which will keep costs down and provide the most accurate record.

Board members raised concerns about audience members violating student privacy; if egregious instances must be removed from the recording, the board should make a statement of what was done, and why, part of the permanent record. We believe such instances would be rare and the board is right not to let that concern hinder its intent to give the community an accurate and complete video record of its meetings.

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