Fargo is the third city to investigate a television news reporter for trespassing, according to The Fargo Forum.
Valley News Live's Mellaney Moore scooped herself Wednesday night after she took a hidden camera into grade schools for a report on lax security in Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead.
Moore walked in and out of schools in the three cities. She did not get permission, and she did not get stopped. She did, however, get a reaction from some school administrators and police.
The newspaper reports that after seeing the TV station's story, Moorhead police knew Moore's actions were not legal.
"The concern we had was that they were specifically doing something that wasn't lawful," said Moorhead Lt. Tory Jacobsen.
Ordinances in all three cities require visitors to register with schools' main offices. Failing to do so is a misdemeanor.
West Fargo Schools Superintendent David Flowers said the TV station used poor judgment that could have a negative effect on school safety.
“In the name of supposedly reporting a vulnerability, you’re also advertising it for those that may not have known,” he said.
Friday, Lt. Joel Vettel of the Fargo Police Department said it has opened an investigation after seeing security video dropped off by the school.
School Superintendent Jeff Schatz said Friday that the video shows Moore entering the school near the office and quickly turning down a hallway.
He said a faculty member stopped her, directed her to the office and asked her to sign in. The video shows Moore walking back toward the office, stopping briefly, then heading out the door, Schatz said.
Schatz said he was concerned the report misrepresented the teacher’s actions, which were in line with school protocol. He said the faculty member did ask Moore if she had registered at the office and asked her to return to the office and register.
“(Moore) made it sound as if nobody had approached her and that just flat out is not true,” he said.
Moore's story captured blurry, bouncy images of children in classrooms and hallways.
“Right away, I saw lines of students, and one can’t even imagine what could happen,” she said in her report, describing a visit to one school.
Ike Walker, the TV station’s news director, said the report did acknowledge Moore was stopped in one school, He stands by the story. He said he assigned it because a parent who also works for the Fargo school district suggested the station look into security at local schools after she saw a similar investigation on the "Today" show." Walker said the TV station was not aware of laws that direct school visitors to register with the school.
“We went inside three schools and walked around unabated. We walked in, and then we walked out,” Walker said. “At no time did anyone ever stop us to challenge why we were there, and that raises a pretty significant security question.”
In an update Thursday night, Valley News Live said the superintendent of Fargo public schools was concerned about the security situation.
"We constantly work on training our people to do that and why that happened yesterday...it shouldn't have," said Superintendent Jeff Schatz. "You should have been asked and you should have been asked to sign in. We could lock all of our doors. We could put police officers at every door, but I don't know if that's exactly what the community would want. People still want access to our schools, so there's a balance there," he said.
The Valley News Live report was among many that marked the first anniversary of the massacre of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton Connecticut, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks [/preserve]