WATCH: Massachusetts Man Threatened with Felony for Recording Public School Officials in Public Building

Inge Berge made it clear from the get-go that he was recording when he walked into the superintendent’s office in Gloucester, Massachusetts to purchase five tickets to a school play in which his middle school daughter was performing.

But Gloucester Public Schools Superintendent Ben Lummis and his secretary said they did not want to be recorded and refused to speak to him unless he turned the camera off.

He ended up speaking to an assistant superintendent named Gregg Bach who did not mind being recorded, then posted the video to his Facebook page, feeling positive about the interaction with Bach.

But later that day he received a letter from Roberta Eason, director of human resources for the district, accusing him of felony wiretapping and threatening him with legal action if he did not remove the video.

More than a month later, the video not only remains on his Facebook page but Berge has filed a lawsuit against the School Committee of Gloucester and three employees, accusing them of violating his Constitutional right to record public officials in public.

The incident took place on March 3, 2022 while Berge was trying to buy five tickets to the school play after he had been informed the school was limiting seating to fill only half the auditorium due to covid restrictions.

Berge was told that 125 seats were available after the school limited seating to only 175 tickets. He was hoping the school district would make an exception to allow his family to see the girl perform.

He had been discussing the issue on his Facebook page and planned to upload the video for his friends and followers.

“I’m filming this, I’m doing a story on it,” Berge told Delisi after walking into the office, who then became irate over the fact he was recording.

“I’m not going to be filmed,” she said. “Can you shut that off. I’m not going to be filmed.”

Delisi scattered into the superintendent’s office as Lummis came to the doorway, telling him to stop recording.

“You do not have my permission to film me right now,” Lummis said before closing the door.

Eventually, Bach stepped out and spoke to him and seemed promising about allowing him to purchase the five tickets.

But not only did they refuse his request, they threatened him with a law that does not apply in this case because he never made it a secret that he was recording, according to the lawsuit filed by Marc Randazza, the First Amendment attorney representing him.

On March 3, 2022, Inge Berge entered the office of the Superintendent of Gloucester Public Schools, Ben Lummis. He went there to discuss an issue wherein Gloucester Public Schools were limited seating capacity at school events purportedly for the purpose of public safety, despite all statewide COVID-19 mandates in Massachusetts having been lifted. These restrictions were making it difficult to purchase tickets for him to attend his daughter’s middle school play.

The Superintendent’s office is a public building that is accessible to the general public.

At the time Berge entered the building, there was neither signage nor any other indication that video recording or photography was restricted, not permitted, nor even discouraged.

At all times, Berge held his camera out in the open, and it was obvious to all parties that he was filming. He also verbally confirmed that he was filming.

When Mr. Berge entered the building, he was directed to Executive Secretary Stephanie Delisi and began to speak with her. He began this conversation by stating “I’m filming this, I’m doing a story on it.”

At no point did anyone inform Mr. Berge that filming was not permitted, although two individuals did protest that they did not personally wish to be filmed. These individuals then retreated to private office areas, and were not filmed after that point.

The lawsuit also states the school is accusing Berge of violating the federal law known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which is supposed to protect the privacy of student education records but that does not appear to be the case here.

The video in question remains on Berge’s Facebook page where it has been shared 16 times as of this writing.

Read both the lawsuit and the letter sent to him by the district. Watch the video below.

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Inge Berge made it clear from the get-go that he was recording when he walked into the superintendent’s office in Gloucester, Massachusetts to purchase five tickets to a school play in which his middle school daughter was performing.

But Gloucester Public Schools Superintendent Ben Lummis and his secretary said they did not want to be recorded and refused to speak to him unless he turned the camera off.

He ended up speaking to an assistant superintendent named Gregg Bach who did not mind being recorded, then posted the video to his Facebook page, feeling positive about the interaction with Bach.

But later that day he received a letter from Roberta Eason, director of human resources for the district, accusing him of felony wiretapping and threatening him with legal action if he did not remove the video.

More than a month later, the video not only remains on his Facebook page but Berge has filed a lawsuit against the School Committee of Gloucester and three employees, accusing them of violating his Constitutional right to record public officials in public.

The incident took place on March 3, 2022 while Berge was trying to buy five tickets to the school play after he had been informed the school was limiting seating to fill only half the auditorium due to covid restrictions.

Berge was told that 125 seats were available after the school limited seating to only 175 tickets. He was hoping the school district would make an exception to allow his family to see the girl perform.

He had been discussing the issue on his Facebook page and planned to upload the video for his friends and followers.

“I’m filming this, I’m doing a story on it,” Berge told Delisi after walking into the office, who then became irate over the fact he was recording.

“I’m not going to be filmed,” she said. “Can you shut that off. I’m not going to be filmed.”

Delisi scattered into the superintendent’s office as Lummis came to the doorway, telling him to stop recording.

“You do not have my permission to film me right now,” Lummis said before closing the door.

Eventually, Bach stepped out and spoke to him and seemed promising about allowing him to purchase the five tickets.

But not only did they refuse his request, they threatened him with a law that does not apply in this case because he never made it a secret that he was recording, according to the lawsuit filed by Marc Randazza, the First Amendment attorney representing him.

On March 3, 2022, Inge Berge entered the office of the Superintendent of Gloucester Public Schools, Ben Lummis. He went there to discuss an issue wherein Gloucester Public Schools were limited seating capacity at school events purportedly for the purpose of public safety, despite all statewide COVID-19 mandates in Massachusetts having been lifted. These restrictions were making it difficult to purchase tickets for him to attend his daughter’s middle school play.

The Superintendent’s office is a public building that is accessible to the general public.

At the time Berge entered the building, there was neither signage nor any other indication that video recording or photography was restricted, not permitted, nor even discouraged.

At all times, Berge held his camera out in the open, and it was obvious to all parties that he was filming. He also verbally confirmed that he was filming.

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When Mr. Berge entered the building, he was directed to Executive Secretary Stephanie Delisi and began to speak with her. He began this conversation by stating “I’m filming this, I’m doing a story on it.”

At no point did anyone inform Mr. Berge that filming was not permitted, although two individuals did protest that they did not personally wish to be filmed. These individuals then retreated to private office areas, and were not filmed after that point.

The lawsuit also states the school is accusing Berge of violating the federal law known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which is supposed to protect the privacy of student education records but that does not appear to be the case here.

The video in question remains on Berge’s Facebook page where it has been shared 16 times as of this writing.

Read both the lawsuit and the letter sent to him by the district. Watch the video below.

Donate to PINAC.

 

Georgia to pay $4.8 Million Settlement to Family of Unarmed Man Shot in Head by “Trooper of the Year” over Broken Taillight

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Editor-in-Chief Carlos Miller spent a decade covering the cop beat for various newspapers in the Southwest before returning to his hometown Miami and launching Photography is Not a Crime aka PINAC News in 2007. He also published a book, The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which is available on Amazon.

5 COMMENTS

  1. once again another school district petty government tyrant that has gotten a little too much power and has let it go to there head!
    with the GENOCIDE JAB mandates lifted there is no reason for the continued restrictions! this is just another tyrant thinking they still have the power over others! then to require tickets to a child’s school play??? WTF!!!! then we get the final joke! we will sue you for a FERPA violation! if FERPA is anything like HIPPA, then once again the burden is not on the concerned dad recording public officials in public!
    maybe with the concerned parent suing the petty school tyrants they will get the message! YOU ARE A PUBLIC SERVANT! you work for WE THE PEOPLE!

  2. In a just world, he could report the school officials and their threat to the FBI, and action would be taken against the true felons here. After all, Title 18, Section 241 of the United States Code defines public officials conspiring to deprive someone of any civil, statutory or constitutional right, or intimidate anyone from the exercise of same, to be a federal felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and/or up to ten years in prison.

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