LAUSD to Implement Stricter Screening Process for Filming at Public Schools

District "monitor," fines among changes to filming policy after NBC4 investigation uncovered porn shoot approved at school.

This article is part of ongoing coverage of this story. You can see all of the investigative series here.

After two weeks of reviewing filming guidelines and policies, the Los Angeles Unified School district is making changes.

Film crews applying to film at one of LAUSD's properties will face stricter rules for the type of content that may be filmed, and potential fines on crews who film questionable content that is not approved by the district in advance.

LAUSD announced Oct. 7 it was shutting down all commercial filming at schools until the district's inspector general could review filming protocol in the wake of an NBC4 investigation. That investigation uncovered disruptions to students and a pornographic film shoot approved by the district in 2011.

Despite the changes, Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who previously declined NBC4's requests to discuss its findings of the investigation, again declined to interview. The district instead provided Mark Hovatter, LAUSD's Chief Facilities Executive, whose department oversees film shoots.

"The superintendent was concerned enough that he asked us to slow down the filming to review our procedures," Hovatter told NBC4's Jenna Susko.

This interview also came after weeks of declined interviews with LAUSD personnel, including every school board member and principals of several schools.

Even the state's Department of Education declined to interview about the filming policies at the nation's second largest school district, which brings in about $2 million a year in revenue from filming, in addition to donations that are often requested by individual schools.

But after revelations of a porn film titled "Revenge of the Petites" being partially filmed at LAUSD's Alexander Hamilton High School, and hundreds of articles and fiery comments about LAUSD's decision to approve the porn shoot, the district agreed to sit down to interview.

"We certainly wished that it hadn't happened," Hovatter said. "It's extremely unfortunate."

Making matters worse, 17-year-old high school student Sammy Bass saw the porn shoot on his way to a rehearsal at Hamilton High. Bass and two friends were later invited to the porn's official red-carpet premiere screening at a local theater. Bass and his friends took pictures with pornstars - one of his friends even wearing a Hamilton Track & Field T-shirt.

"All my friends at school thought it was really funny," he said of wearing the shirt.

And the porn movie was just one of many questionable shoots approved on school campuses.

"The documentation in no way represented the activity that was going to be happening," Hovatter said. "We were surprised as anyone when we found out that was happening."

Film companies are not allowed to "disrupt any school instructional program" according to filming policy, but records show school officials willing to make exceptions in exchange for additional money.

Classes were disrupted by a film crew's explosion, school equipment has been damaged, and crews have repeatedly been caught smoking on campus.

Now the district is making its message clear.

"If it can't be done without disrupting the class, we should not engage in those activities," Hovatter said.

The district said it didn't used to focus so much on the content of film shoots it approved, but now they'll be keeping a much closer eye and ear on productions.

Companies will be required to provide more detail about what will be filmed - though details of how aren't yet clear - and film monitors will be on site of productions to make sure scenes are appropriate.

If film crews mislead the district about what is being filmed, they may face a fine in according with an updated filming agreement they must agree to abide by.

"I don't believe there is any chance that sort of circumstance could ever happen again," Hovatter said.

LAUSD Public Information Officer Shannon Haber sent NBC4 an email Tuesday with an informational document Cortines reportedly sent to the Board of Education about filming.

The document, titled "Overview of Commercial Filming at District Sites," explains "LAUSD is seen as a large and attractive market for commercial entities" and states "protecting the integrity of the LAUSD brand is important."

It goes on to explain the process for film crews who wish to apply for permits at an LAUSD property.

"Cortines stressed ... that impacts to daily school operations will be minimized," Haber's email further explained.

"He added that although filming activity represents additional revenue, the District's first priority must be to educate its students."

Haber said that new filming policy, however, was not yet finalized and therefore was unavailable to NBC4.

But the district will not make any changes to schools' policies for notifying parents about film shoots.

NBC4 found only six of 50 LAUSD schools contacted had a policy for notifying parents.

The decision on whether and how to inform parents will remain up to the individual school principals, Hovatter said.

"We do have a process and we take this very seriously," he said. "We believe the most important thing is to educate our children."

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