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TV Reporter Won't Face Charges for Entry to Fargo School

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A North Dakota TV reporter who entered three public schools without checking in with the school offices, ostensibly to test school security, won't be charged in at least one jurisdiction, published reports say.

Reporter Mellaney Moore of Valley News Live (KVLY-TV in Fargo and KXJB-TV in Grand Forks) wore a hidden camera to schools in Fargo and West Fargo, as well as in Moorhead, Minn., in December, around the anniversary of the fatal school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Moore reportedly said in her report that she entered the three elementary schools and was allowed to walk freely, without anyone stopping her in two of them.

"I expected to be intercepted by security, but again I walked right in," Moore said of the Fargo school in her report, according to the Web site TV Spy, which covers local TV news. 

"I met one faculty member that was more than willing to direct me to any classroom," Moore said, again according to TV Spy. She said the faculty member did not ask her why she was there or if she had signed in at the office.

But after the report aired, Fargo schools Superintendent Jeff Schatz challenged its accuracy. Schatz reportedly said that the school's security cameras showed Moore entering the elementary school and turning to avoid checking in at the office. A faculty member noticed she wasn't wearing a school ID tag and directed her back to the office to sign in. Moore then left the school without signing in, Schatz said, according to the TV Spy report.

City ordinances in Fargo and West Fargo require school visitors to check in at the office, making a violation a misdemeanor.

On Tuesday, the InForum news web site of Fargo-Moorhead, N.D., reported that a Fargo city prosecutor decided that Moore won't be charged for the school visit in that city. Fargo Assistant City Attorney Jason Loos told the Web news service that the Fargo school district had decided not to press the case. Another factor was that the TV reporter had been directed by her superiors to pursue the story.

Besides prompting a legitimate debate about journalistic ethics and legalities, Moore's report on school security did add to the debate about the original topic: whether it was too easy to enter schools unchallenged. 

This month, the Fargo district announced that it would install cameras, intercoms, and electronic locks at all of its elementary and middle schools. A few schools have been testing the systems for a while, the InForum site reports. (So it's apparently not the case that the security measures were directly a result of the TV report.)

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