The Keene Sentinel published a well-researched article by Meghan Foley yesterday outlining the recent interactions between bureaucrats and liberty activists including me, Derrick J, Renee Kate, and JP Freeman at Monadnock Regional High School. We were inspired to renew the school outreach project by Manchester activists who imported the concept there over the winter, plus MRHS student-at-the-time Fatima Smart who heroically refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance. Here is a copy of the Philosophy of Liberty flier we were handing out to the middle and high school students.
Kudos to Foley for citing my blog, where I point out that Monadnock school administrators lied to parents when claiming activists recording students who are outdoors somehow violated their privacy. Derrick is also interviewed in the piece:
They came, they handed out pamphlets about “The Philosophy of Liberty,” and they left.
Ten days later, they came again, handed out the same brochures, and this time were told to leave school grounds by Swanzey police officers on behalf of Monadnock Regional Middle/High School administrators.They left, and haven’t returned since. But that doesn’t mean these individuals associated with the libertarian-leaning, anti-government Free Keene movement, and their friends, won’t return to spread their message.
Derrick J. Horton, who was the main organizer of the two visits last month, said Monday he plans to continue the outreach at Monadnock Regional Middle/High School.
School officials don’t want him and others to continue due mostly to student privacy and safety concerns.
“It is our belief that this group is trespassing on school grounds,” Interim Superintendent Keith M. Pfeifer said in an email last week. “They are also videotaping school students without written permission from their parents, also a violation of common law.”
In a follow-up email, he said the school district “respects the rights of citizens to express their viewpoints in any manner that doesn’t disrupt the school day or interfere with students’ ability to come and go from school and receive an education.”
But as long as Horton and those with him stay on public land along the roadside and don’t enter school property again, there’s little school officials can do to stop them, Pfeifer said.
“These are citizens exercising their free speech rights and we welcome the opportunity to use this as a learning exercise for our students,” he said.
Pfeifer said having police issue trespass orders to Horton and others handing out flyers and videotaping at the Monadnock school is an option school officials could pursue.
They have the precedent. Swanzey police issued Horton, who goes by Derrick J. Freeman, and a few others affiliated with Free Keene trespass orders at the request of Monadnock officials in 2012 for activities similar to what they were doing last month.
Swanzey Police Chief Thomas R. DeAngelis said Tuesday the orders were just for the middle/high school grounds, and expired after a year. School officials didn’t renew the orders, he said.
The same year as Monadnock, Keene School District officials asked police to issue trespass orders against Horton and Ian B. Freeman, who is also affiliated with Free Keene.
Those trespass orders were issued after Keene Middle School’s then-principal found the men, and a third person, handing out flyers on the school’s property on Maple Avenue, Keene police Lt. Todd B. Lawrence said Tuesday. At the principal’s request, Sgt. Jason R. Short told the group to leave the property, and they did, Lawrence said. The trespass orders were valid between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., and applied to all School Administrative Unit 29 properties, he said.
Freeman said Wednesday the Keene trespass orders didn’t have expiration dates like the ones for Monadnock.
Horton said Monday he hasn’t decided if he will hand out flyers at other area schools, but he is “eager to reach new minds.”
After his first visit to Monadnock on May 18, Horton posted a video on the Free Keene blog. While the recording focused mostly on Horton, some students were shown.
In the roughly six-minute video clip from May 18, Horton walks on to the grounds of the middle/high school during dismissal, and starts handing out pamphlets to students who are rushing to cars in the parking lot or getting on school buses.
“My goal is to hand out these flyers, and communicate the ideas of freedom and peace and liberty,” he said in the recording. “Most people tend to be into that. We’ll see.”
The pamphlets outline what is required to achieve a free society.
They also contain a plug for people to join the Shire Society’s peaceful evolution.
Horton starts by asking students if they want some information about freedom. Once he stops at the school’s entrance, he starts asking students if they’re interested in some philosophy. Several students take the brochures, while others decline, and some ask questions.
He leaves the school’s entrance about three minutes later, and walks toward the parking lot saying he handed out a “good chunk of flyers,” and that “people seemed to be pretty happy and receptive.”
Horton’s second visit to Monadnock on May 28 wasn’t as welcoming as his first visit.
A video posted on Keene Cop Block by someone under the user name Centurion, who also goes by Matt Phillips, shows two Swanzey police officers, Chief DeAngelis and Lt. Mark A. Chamberlain asking Horton and others to leave the property, which they did after some discussion. Also, someone can be heard yelling,”Go back to Keene. Go back to Keene. You are not welcome here.”
In a May 22 letter to parents and guardians, Principal Linda Kalloger — referencing the first incident — said their children were “inadvertently caught on video this week, and that video is now posted on-line.”
The two people recording the video were on school grounds without permission, Kalloger wrote, and what took place was a violation of students’ privacy.
“The school has informed the local law enforcement agency of their actions, and a plan has been developed to remove them should they return to school grounds,” she wrote.
In a May 24 post on the Free Keene blog, Ian Freeman writes that it wasn’t Horton’s intention to record students, and even if it was, it wouldn’t have been a violation of their privacy because they were all outside on what is “ostensibly public property.”
In addition, parents signing a section of the school district’s student registration form are agreeing to their students being “recorded or photographed for public use by newspaper, radio, TV and web,” Ian Freeman wrote.
Monadnock officials have a different perspective on the matter.
Pfeifer said the Monadnock school district has definitive rules about photographing and recording students without permission from parents and school principals.
Mark V. Joyce, executive director of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association, said Monday that the overall responsibility of school districts by law is to ensure the safety of students and staff. While public schools are on publicly-owned property, they’re not publicly accessible for all purposes, he said.
“Case law about whether schools are open forums or not has been well settled in Supreme Court law,” he said. “Schools have the ability to limit public forums as long as they don’t discriminate against one body.”