A Texas school superintendent wanted to make it clear he was not racially profiling or stereotyping when he forbade an Al Jazeera reporter from shooting video at a high school football game Friday.
After all, he said in a public statement today, he celebrates the unification of cultures by listening to “Fiesta Night” music.
But despite his tolerance of other cultures, he would never allow a journalist to use a camera at a “public event, on public property and at a public school function.”
That would be violating something he refers to as the students’ “FERPA rights.”
While it may sound official, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act has nothing to do with students getting videotaped in public. It simply ensures their grades remain confidential without prior consent from students.
And in a town of 1,500 people in the northeastern corner of the panhandle, everybody knows everybody else’s business anyway.
Booker School Superintendent Michael Lee posted his statement on the school district’s website after reporter Gabriel Elizondo wrote about his experience on Al Jazeera, but it has since been removed and can now be viewed on Al Jazeera.
Elizondo, who is Brazilian, is traveling the country interviewing people about the effects of 9/11.
Like many Americans, Lee was most likely distrustful of Al Jazeera because it is an Arabic-owned station based in the Middle East.
But Al Jazeera has proven to be just as trustful – if not more – as many American-owned news companies (insert punchline here).
Al Jazeera is owned by the State of Qatar, a country which is allied with the United States and has built a reputation of independent, controversial and investigative journalism in the Middle East.
This is how Elizondo recounted his experience:
“I am a journalist crossing the country doing random stories about the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 and I was hoping to talk to some people here about it at the game, and get some opinions.”
He then said something I could not entirely make out, because his voice sort of quivered from a combination of being obviously furious and nervous at the same time.
But I am pretty sure he said:
“I think it was damn rotten what they did.”
“I am sorry, what who did?” I say, not sure exactly if he was calling me rotten, the terrorists rotten, Al Jazeera rotten, or all of the above.
“The people that did this to us,” he says back to me with a smirk, still glaring uncomfortably straight at my eyes.
“Well, I think it was bad too,” I say. “Well, do you think, sir, we can film a bit of the game and talk to some people here about just that?”
“No. You can’t film, you can’t take pictures, or interview people.”