Media Relations

Rob Spicker, Assistant Director, Media Relations and Public Information

Phone: 239-335-1490

The Communications Department is open 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and is located at the Lee County Public Education Center, 2855 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers.

The following tips are provided to help bolster an effective working relationship between the media and Lee County Public Schools.

Protocol

The School District of Lee County would like to maintain positive and productive relationships with our media partners. The following guidelines will help our media partners obtain desired information, footage and interviews:

  • Media need to obtain clearance from Communications prior to arriving on any campus.
  • The Communications Department will assist in facilitating any media requests with District leaders.
  • Once on campus, please check in at the front office immediately.
  • Requests for interviews and footage are expedited more efficiently if inquiries include details about the information you require, the individuals you are wishing to speak with and any footage you are hoping to capture.

Inquiries and requests may be sent to news@leeschools.net or by phoning the Communications Department at (239) 461-8420.

Student-Related Information

While the District works hard to provide information/data whenever possible, there are instances when such action cannot be taken by staff. There are various laws (state and federal) that govern what the District can and cannot release to the public when it comes to student-related information. Some of those include, but are not limited to:

  • Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA)
  • The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)
  • Florida Statutes 1002.221
  • School Board policy 4.19

So what does all that mean?

Simply put, the District cannot provide any information that is related to individual student(s). The records are declared to be confidential and exempt from public records status. A "student record" is defined as virtually any information maintained by the school related to the student (current of former.) Release of such information by the District in verbal or document form would violate Federal and Florida Law.

Employee-Related Information

For the most part, all information concerning District employees is public and will be provided when requested. This includes contact information, personnel files and other information. There are, however, some exemptions under Chapter 119, Florida Statutes and Education Code (FS1000-1013.) In addition, throughout the year the District conducts various investigations that involve our employees. When it comes to investigations, District procedures are as follows:

  • District staff cannot comment on open investigations. Any comments provided could thwart the investigatory process, and we want to ensure the integrity of the ongoing investigation.
    • This includes investigations by outside agencies (i.e. law enforcement) involving District staff members.
    • Once a District-conducted investigation is closed, the employee(s) is entitled to written notification that the investigatory documents will be made public - and they become public 10 days after the written notification is received (based on FS1012.31.)

Presence on District Property (Schools/District Offices)

Throughout the year there may be instances where the media want to be on a school campus or other District property. The District has various procedures/processes in place for visitors when they arrive at a school - with safety being the priority.

  • All visitors must check in at the school's front office and obtain permission to be on campus. This must be done prior to any video and audio recording.
  • Interviewing students on campus can only be done with the permission and supervision of school staff.
    • Students must have a media release signed by their parent/guardian on file allowing media interaction while at school.
    • It's recommended that any visits be pre-arranged to help expedite the process - obtaining permission prior to any interaction with students allows school staff to verify such a release is on file allowing student(s) to participate.
  • The Communications Department can help clear the way by contacting the school prior to media arriving to ensure students with the proper media clearance are pre-identified and available for interviews and/or photographs.
    • In some cases, we can also clear the way to allow media on campus to shoot "b-roll" of students walking through hallways, in the cafeteria, etc. Usually this must be done in such a way that no one student can be identified in order to protect those students without media releases.
  • Whenever on a school campus or at a District office, media are asked to wear/display any press identification badges they may have from their employer - this is in addition to any ID stickers provided by the school/District. Not everyone knows our local reporters, so ID Badges can go a long way in helping you get where you need to go.
  • In times of emergencies or crisis situations (lockdowns, bomb threats, etc.) media and other visitors will not be allowed on campus.
    • There will be a media staging area established by the District and/or emergency response officials located as near the campus as possible.
    • Interviews/media briefings will take place in the staging area as new information becomes available.
      • When Communications Department staff arrive on scene, their first priority will be to meet with incident command to obtain the pertinent facts - interviews will be conducted as quickly as possible after information is collected.
      • As much information as feasible will be provided to media, being mindful that the information shared cannot compromise the ongoing investigation/proceedings.
    • When the situations ends, media may be allowed on campus if it's determined their presence will not disrupt the operations of the school or any continued work by emergency response personnel.
      • In some instances, the District can access restricted areas and shoot "pool video" (b-roll) to be shared with the media.

Covering School Board Meetings

The following guidelines have been provided to support the local media in its coverage of public meetings conducted by the School Board of Lee County, while maintaining order and providing for the safety and security of all those in attendance.

Just like the general public, members of the media must conduct themselves in accordance with School Board Policy 1.11.

For meetings at the Lee County Public Education Center, a Press Room immediately adjacent to the School Board meeting room has been established.

  • This room provides audio/video feeds from the Lee Schools TV broadcast.
  • There are Audio/Video outputs available for TV media to plug in and record. 
  • In order to minimize disruption, maintain clear aisles and unobstructed access to entrances and exits, news photographers are asked to remain in the media room, or in a predetermined area of the board room.

Reporters may choose to sit in the boardroom or in the designated media room.  If choosing to sit in the boardroom, we ask that reporters who plan to be up and down during the meeting (for interviews etc...) sit near the back in order to minimize disruption. All media interviews shall be conducted outside the meeting room while the Board is in session.

Just like the general public, there is no access to the cordoned off areas in front of the Board dais or side walkways except when escorted by a Board Member or District staff member.

Members of the media may approach School Board Members for interview during a break, or before or after School Board meetings, workshops or briefings. All requests for interviews with the Superintendent or District staff must be coordinated through the Communications Department.