North Dakota reporter banned from covering schools after security stories

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead | Valley News Live

On Dec. 11 of last year, reporter Mellaney Moore with Valley News Live in North Dakota entered elementary schools in three cities to test their security systems for a story. On Thursday, Emily Welker with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reported that Moore agreed not to cover those schools for the next 90 days to avoid criminal charges.

Police in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo investigated Mellaney Moore for possible trespassing charges after her Dec. 11 story for Valley News Live in which she entered elementary schools in all three cities without signing in at the front desks – an attempt to point out shortcomings in the schools’ security.

Prosecutors in Moorhead and Fargo said earlier this week that they decided to not seek charges of alleged trespassing against Moore.

Valley News Live still has the story on its site, which reports that Moore "went into several area schools with a hidden camera to see just how safe our students really are. She found that in the middle of the school day, as a stranger, she could walk right into one of the area's elementary schools."

On Dec. 16, Valley News Live posted a story entitled "School Security Story Disputes: The Video Says It All," (no video now) that pushes back against the schools assertion the story wasn't true.

We wanted to show what really happened- so here is the raw audio and video of the conversation Mellaney had when she approached the faculty member:

Teacher: "Were you looking for a classroom?"
Mellaney: "Well actually, I think I got a little turned around. Where is your front office?"
Teacher: "Um, right here…"
Mellaney: "If you could just point me in the right direction."
Teacher: "OK. Are you looking for the kindergarten wing or the fifth grade wing?"
Mellaney: "Just the front door."
Teacher: "Ok, that's the front door."
Mellaney: "OK."
Teacher: "Yep."
Mellaney: "Thank you."
Teacher: "Yep."

According to a Dec. 13 story by Aaron Rupar for the alt-weekly City Pages, "In Moore's report, hidden camera footage of children was accompanied with observations like this: 'Right away, I saw lines of students, and one can't even imagine what could happen.'"

Rupar cites a Forum story, that's behind a paywall, about why the visits were possibly illegal.

According to a Forum Communications report, one of the schools she entered has a sign on the door stating, "During regularly scheduled classes, all visitors must register at the main office. Failure to do so is a Class B misdemeanor and a violation of Fargo municipal code 10-0320." But in order to demonstrate holes in the schools' security, Moore didn't register when she walked in.

On Jan. 17, Poynter reported a similar stunt from St. Louis TV station KSDK, which caused a school lockdown. KSDK has since issued an apology.


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