After a state audit raised serious questions about possible tampering with Criterion Referenced Competency Tests in Dougherty County, you might think school administrators would go out of their way to make sure this year's testing was open and transparent.
Well, you'd be wrong.
Several principals did invite the media to observe testing, then administrators in the central office overruled them and uninvited us. Superintendent Dr. Sally Whatley says the state told them to keep the media out.
A representative from the State Department of Education told us they can't force school systems to ban reporters from schools and merely suggested journalists could be a distraction. Whoever made the decision, it was a bad one.
Keeping cameras out of classrooms while students are actually taking tests is understandable. Prohibiting any member of the media - with or without a camera -- from even entering schools during testing doesn't make sense.
If they have nothing to hide, schools should want us to show all of you that they're following strict procedures to make sure no tampering can take place.
State monitors are overseeing the testing in eight Dougherty County Schools. School Board members were invited in. Even volunteers from the Rotary Club were allowed to observe the testing. And yet somehow, the school system thinks a reporter would cause a problem.
Journalism is essentially the only profession protected under the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of the press. Our Founding Fathers realized journalists should be watchdogs who keep public officials honest.
That's a lesson Dougherty County School administrators need to learn.