School Board Chairman Lays Down the Law
By Donnelly Clare
School Board President Terry Rothmann Monday night implemented a new practice at board meetings: step out of line and you won’t be allowed to speak.
Rothmann announced the new practice just before the public comment period of the Feb. 25th board meeting.
“Our policy regarding public comments is included in tonight’s agenda,” Rothmann said, who then read the policy aloud:
All public comments shall be three to five minutes in length as determined by the Board. No person may speak more than once to an issue, except upon the consent of a majority of the School Board. The Board Secretary will serve as timekeeper for public comments. Comments made by the public shall be civil in content and tone, affirming the decorum established for a board meeting by the board. Disparaging comments/remarks about board members, employees, students, positions/position titles, and/or district citizens shall not be made. Public comment forms will be available at all regular in writing. All comments written on public comment forms will be disseminated to School Board members for their consideration.
“Effective tonight, I’m issuing the following procedures; the first instance of violating this policy by a speaker will result in a warning to that speaker,” Rothmann said. “The second instance of violating this policy by a speaker will result in that speaker being asked to take a seat. He or she will not be recognized to speak again for the remainder of the meeting.”
He added the board was “very interested” in what people had to say during board meetings but insisted board policy be followed by members of the public.
The policy didn’t sit well with all board members, including Lisa Totten, who questioned whether Rothmann had the authority to restrict the public’s speech during a public board meeting.
“I’d like to public to know that was a decision made by the chair and the board had no knowledge of this ahead of time,” Totten said. “This was not board- sanctioned.”
Rothmann said board policy does give the chair that authority, and the board also approved the policy dictating the restrictions on speech.