AISD denies media access to meeting

Amarillo Independent School District officials denied media access to a Department of Public Health meeting Wednesday night.

A Department of Public Health notice was posted on AISDâ??s website April 1 informing the public about a meeting to be held at Fannin Middle School cafeteria April 2 at 6 p.m.

When Pronews 7 showed up, we were informed by Holly Shelton, public information officer for AISD, we were allowed 10 minutes in the meeting, and then we must leave.

The meeting lasted more than one hour.

She said in the meeting the purpose of the media leaving early is to guarantee confidentiality to parents and students.

The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas does not feel that this was a violation of the open meetings act, but bad policy on the district's part.

However, civil rights attorney Jeff Blackburn, Blackburn & Tisdell, LLP, disagrees, and said this is a violation of public rights.

â??First of all, for a government to have a meeting, then they got to have an agenda,â?? Blackburn said. â??Secondly, they got to tell everybody what that agenda is. Third, they canâ??t exclude people from it. Itâ??s not complicated. Thatâ??s why we call it the Open Meetings Act. When you have a meeting, it has to be open. You canâ??t have a meeting and say you canâ??t be here. They have a limited right to close some parts of it off for some deliberations, but they have to tell everybody what thatâ??s about and they have to put it on their agenda. Apparently they didnâ??t do that. This is clearly a violation of the most fundamental law of this country and this state.â??

Blackburn said the role the media plays in informing the public is critical, and he said government entities, such as AISD, should never deny media access to public meetings.