Public Comment Changes Approved by School Board

The School Board had its second reading for a policy change regarding public comment during its Jan. 8 meeting.
The biggest change is tabling any of the unused time for public comments until the end of the meeting, which is based on a state requirement to allow 30 minutes for public comments.
One of the items of contention was whether or not the proposed language would make it so they have to wait until the end of the scheduled meeting time, even if there is still no one present for public comment.
School Board Chair, Gretchen Whiting, explained that if their meeting was scheduled to go into a non-public session at 8:50 p.m. and someone came at 8:45 p.m., they would have to allow the individual their time to speak as part of public comment.
However, if someone was to come at 9 p.m., then in that case they wouldn’t be allowed to speak, since the scheduled meeting is over.
School Board member, Ethan Beals, questioned why they put scheduled times down for their agenda items, noting that if it would make it more difficult under the policy changes, he would be OK with eliminating it.
“I don’t know if we’re doing ourselves favors there,” he said.
Business Administrator, Jen Burk, said they use it as a way to let people know tentatively when they are going to be discussing certain agenda items.
Beals proposed changing the language to table the remainder of the time until the end of the public meeting, and if there aren’t enough speakers to fill the 30 minutes of public comment, the School Board would be able to close public comment.
“That works,” Superintendent, Dan Moulis said.
Another change is how people can address the School Board on specific topics.
“Requests to address the Board on specific matters (i.e., a request to have a matter placed on an agenda) should be presented to the Superintendent and the School Board Chair no less than fourteen days prior to the next board meeting and must set forth the specifics of the subject to be address,” the policy reads. “The determination whether to place the matter on the agenda will be made consistent with Board Policy BEDB.”
There was also language added for meeting disruptions.
“Any comments which do not adhere to the above, or which disrupt the official business of the Board may be ruled out of order by the Chair. Repeated disruption may result in the individual being asked to leave the meeting,” the policy reads. “Obscene speech, comments threatening bodily harm, or other unprotected speech will not be tolerated. Comments which do not adhere to the above provisions may be ruled out of order by the Chair. Repeated violations may result in the Chair terminating the speaker’s privilege of address, and possibly deeming the violations a disruption to be treated as discussed in section C below.”
The policy also states “The Board Chair may terminate the speaker’s privilege of address if the speaker does not follow the above rules of order. Repeated violations or disruptions may result in the intervention of law enforcement, with the potential for criminal charges.”
Following the discussion, the School Board unanimously approved the changes to the policy.

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