• The Publisher’s Notebook •
Protecting Malibu Children at School
BY ANNE SOBLE
If last Thursday’s meeting of the Los Angeles Regional Paparazzi Task Force was supposed to demonstrate the enormity and severity of the widespread problems created by unscrupulous paparazzi chasing down celebrity children and frightening their classmates, it fell short of the mark.
Of all the public and private schools in the community, only one appeared to testify, despite the obvious fact that the offspring of entertainment, sports and business heavyweights are scattered throughout the local school system.
That most of these notables don’t lead the kinds of lifestyles that fill the pages of publications or Web sites serviced by the paparazzi warrants social commentary of its own, but should be separated from the public policy issue of whether additional municipal legislation is required to rein in illegal behavior.
No one thinks irresponsible wielders of cameras in the name of the national preoccupation with the details of celebrity private lives—the more sordid the better—are poster boys or girls for the First Amendment. What is asserted is attempts to curb the protections of the errant few can impact not only the rights of all journalists, but also the rights of all individuals.
The first question that came to mind after listening to representatives of the Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School was whether they had inquired how other local schools handle the paparazzi.
It turns out that Webster Elementary School had a parent (the principal asked that we not name them) who was a prime paparazzi target for all the reasons that make celebrity media barons salivate.
The principal sat down with the parent and discussed the problem. The individual then decided to subsidize green privacy screening for the school perimeter, which not only impeded scurrilous photographers (who ran greater risk of violating trespass and other laws, if they tried to get around the screening), but also created an increased sense of security for all students. This person’s children ultimately transferred to another school, but the lesson still holds.
Instead of encouraging efforts to draft unnecessary and likely unconstitutional legislation, Point Dume school staff and parents should first consider physical changes to the campus that might alleviate their concerns. For example, the school’s fenced perimeter, which is completely surrounded by public sidewalk, could also be screened. Enhanced privacy and security would be an obvious end result.