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Protecting a Parent’s Right to Record Government Officials

Pitta v. Medeiros

Case Status

Date Filed

April 3, 2024

Last Step

Filed petition for writ of certiorari in. U.S. Supreme Court.

Next Step

Await Supreme Court decision of whether to take up case.

Case Overview

Parents have a fundamental right to control and direct the education and upbringing of their children. But more than that, they have a responsibility to ensure that their children receive an adequate education. Scott and Roxanne Pitta were exercising that right and fulfilling that responsibility when they engaged in a series of online discussions with school officials over the needs of their child, J.J. The Pittas and school employees, however, disagreed over J.J.’s needs, and as part of that disagreement, the Pittas requested permission to video-record their online meetings with the school employees.

School administrators, however, refused. Although they would permit an audio recording, they insisted that school policy prohibits video-recording these meetings. And that was a problem, because the Pittas wanted to preserve evidence that some of the school employees took their side in the dispute over J.J.’s education.

The Constitution generally protects a person’s right to video record government officials while doing their duties. In fact, most federal courts have ruled that the act of making a video recording of a government employee doing his or her job is protected by the First Amendment. But when the Pittas went to court to challenge the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District’s no-video-recoding policy, the court announced a different rule: citizens only have the right to record government officials if those officials are in “indisputably public places,” and only when the recording would serve the public interests.

That rule is troubling. The Pittas’ meetings with government officials took place in their own home—where surely they have the right to film government employees. And restricting the right to record to instances when the recording would be in the public interests would essentially require people to predict the future; nobody knows when a video recording might become an important document to share with others.

As part of the Goldwater Institute’s work defending the right of parents to oversee the education and upbringing of their children, the Goldwater Institute is appealing the Pittas’ case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Case Logistics

The Goldwater Institute is representing Scott Pitta, a Massachusetts father who wanted to video record a meeting discussing his son’s educational needs to ensure that his child receives the education that federal law guarantees.

The Goldwater Institute filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court on April 3, 2024.

The petition asks the Supreme Court to review the First Circuit’s decision and ultimately declare that video recording can be—and was here—an inherently expressive activity entitled to the full protection of the First Amendment.

Case Documents

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