PINAC reporter Jeff Gray received 38 “school safe zones” / trespassing warning letters from the Superintendent of St. Johns County schools and every single principal of every single school in his home county, where his children are enrolled.
The letters were dated December 7th, a day that will now live in censorship infamy.
Jeff Gray aka HonorYourOath was at the receiving end of a (poorly drafted) retaliatory lawsuit by the St Johns County School Board, as we reported earlier this week.
Now, a certified letter containing 38 blanket trespassing warnings arrived too.
Or if police should have the immediate authority to arrest Gray for going within 500 feet of the internet.
According to Gray, these letters could, “subject me to arrest for innocently driving down many of the streets nearest my home for no apparent reason. They’re treating me like a sexual predator, drug dealer or terrorist. I have no criminal convictions of any kind in my life.”
“This is my punishment for the audacity of requesting public records, asking questions they may not like, filming public employees and holding them accountable.”
The letters are a feeble attempt at prior restraint of Gray’s first amendment right free speech, to photograph and report on the activities surrounding public schools by the obsessive Dr. Joseph Joyner – Superintendent at St. Johns public school system – who is busy chasing his white whale with a censorship harpoon.
Notably, Joyner’s own hand signed letter included a trespass warning for “any School Board property or structure” in a specific bid to chill Gray’s news reporting activities at bus depots and the non-school service facilities which are owned by the Board.
One letter arrived from every single school in St. Johns county, where three of Gray’s children are currently enrolled in public schools.
Thirty four of the letters lacked any exemptions whatsoever for legitimate activities, and no letter stated the reasons why it was sent – besides their boss’ clear intent to restrain Gray’s reporting activities – and gave warning under Florida Statute 810.097.
This isn’t Mr. Gray’s first trespass warning from St. Johns schools, he was also demanded to depart premises in February of this year for asking St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputies about their warrantless drug search program which brings drug dogs into public schools.
Deputies searched his child and the all passengers of his school bus.
Mr. Gray’s son – who rides St Johns’ school busses daily – is enrolled at St. Augustine Senior High, and its principal sent a peculiar letter noting that the reporter was “warned not to enter the grounds of [NAME OF SCHOOL] for any reason.”
In St. Augustine, censorship is pursued with form letters.
This autumn, school administrators and college professors are being frequently exposed for their deeply misguided, completely irrational beliefs in the power of “safe zones” to banish the First Amendment from schools, all the while cherishing their academic freedom and cushy government jobs.
Once again, an individual awarded a Doctorate diploma is falsely claiming that “Safe Zones” can themselves keep safe from damaging news about their unsafe administration.
Sadly, all of the school principals bowed to the decree of Dr. Joseph Joyner’s “safe zone” to censor reporters.
So much for academic freedom.
The out of control Schools Superintendent’s grudge for Gray is well known to stem from his investigative journalism, and he even said as much at a public meeting in September.
Jeffrey Gray embarked on a school bus safety investigation in November after a 12 year-old suffered serious injuries in a school bus accident, show in the video at bottom.
Even worse, his investigation showed that the driver of that particular bus which had wrecked, had not filled in the mandatory pre-trip safety inspection log after obtaining a public record document from the St. Johns County School District, which also transports one of his children by bus to school.
The administrator for St. Johns schools transport included a letter in the file explaining why the driver didn’t inspect his bus that fateful morning, but noting helpfully that he routinely violated policy regarding inspections.
Federal and state safety regulations strictly require children’s school busses to be inspected and logged as inspected before each day’s route.
So as Gray is wont to do, he continued his investigation through December to better surveil other school bus drivers leaving on their morning routes.
He was nearly rear-ended on the last day of five days recording school bus drivers.
The bus driver who nailed a parked car next to Gray, was recorded skipping his pre-trip inspection that day too, which is when the reporter used Florida’s Sunshine Law to request an on-site (known as in-camera) inspection of the driver’s log.
The relevant portion of that law says:
119.07 Inspection and copying of records; photographing public records; fees; exemptions.—
Florida law defines a custodian of public records as any employee possessing a public document – which the bus driver clearly held at that time.
In reporting on public safety, the timing of requests matter, because skipping a safety inspection is a violation, but determining if that driver also marked that he had inspected the vehicle on his log, would indicate if there was criminal intent to forge an official record.
These aren’t just slips of paper, these logs are markers kept for the safety of innocent children, 35,000 of which are entrusted to this particular district daily.
The bus driver initially handed over the log book, but before Gray could take a photo, demanded that the reporter return the public record and instead make a request to St. Johns County downtown school board offices.
It’s highly unlikely that Gray would receive the exact same document in the same state after such an unreasonable demand by the driver, which did comport with the school board’s flawed public records access policy.
The driver violated the Sunshine Law in requesting Gray’s identification and too when he refused to let Jeff photograph the record.
But St. Johns is far more interested in protecting bus drivers who are uninterested in safety, and prefer to censor investigative journalism instead.