Paparazzi create an ‘unsafe situation’ at schools, Malibu principal says

Parents and education officials speaking at a regional paparazzi task force meeting on Thursday evening in Malibu told stories of eager photographers encroaching on local schools to snap shots of celebrities and their children. They called the situation a security risk. Members of the task force headed by Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine encouraged local law enforcement to monitor area schools more stringently and to shorten response time because many photographers often flee if questioned.

Malibu residents Skylar Peak and Philip “John” Hildebrand, who are facing misdemeanor battery charges for their alleged involvement in the June brawl with paparazzi attempting to photograph actor Matthew McConaughey, attended the meeting at the Malibu Performing Arts Center. They did not speak and sat with a group of people sporting supportive t-shirts. A planned rally for the Malibu residents that had been advertised on the Internet and on a local movie theater sign did not take place.

The task force consists of leaders from several local cities, representatives from law enforcement, an executive from the Screen Actors Guild and a legal scholar from Pepperdine University. Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich, who sits on the task force and is working on getting an ordinance passed to control the paparazzi in this city, hosted the meeting.

“I really fear that one of our kids is going to get hurt,” Conley Ulich said. “If there’s anything I can do, as a mother and as the mayor, I’m going to do it, to protect my kids and all the kids in Malibu.”

Kelly Chapman Meyer, former PTA president at Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School, read the task force a letter from school principal Chi Kim about the increasing amount of voyeurism throughout the school day.

“The presence of paparazzi creates anxiety in our students and creates an unsafe situation,” Kim wrote. “Any parent who is faced with a stranger approaching their child goes into protection mode. It creates a level of fear in our parents and students who witness these events.”

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Evan Moore, a physical education teacher at Point Dume Marine Science, recounted seeing paparazzi pressed up against the school’s perimeter fences several times a week as they attempted to take photographs of celebrities’ children or catch the parents when they arrived to pick up the students.

“The photographers know the parents’ schedules,” Moore said. “They know what time the kids arrive at school and when they leave the school, when there are half days and when parents volunteer in the classrooms. It’s very, very frustrating.”

A Point Dume Marine Science parent said his son became frightened after seeing paparazzi pursue a celebrity father and had even witnessed photographers falling from trees on stakeouts at the school.

Commander Carl Deeley of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who sits on the task force, told school officials they should videotape aggressive photographers and record license plate numbers that could aid law officials in enforcing existing laws such as traffic violations and physical confrontations.

Barry McDonald, an associate professor at Pepperdine’s School of Law, presented a summary of legal research on related First Amendment court cases that could be applicable to a possible paparazzi ordinance. McDonald had compiled the information at the request of Conley Ulich.

McDonald and his associates put together several binders worth of material of history and suggestions for types of ordinances that might withstand constitutionality tests by the court. He said the ratio of the societal value of images versus the intrusion caused by capturing the images would most likely be a measure a court would examine if a new ordinance were adopted. But he emphasized that existing laws should be enforced before attempting to pass a new ordinance.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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