If a citizen or staff member makes a request to be put on the agenda do they have to be added, can they be refused, and what is the process the board should follow?
January 3, 2011
The short answer is that they can be refused, but let me explain and give some options. School board meetings are meetings of the board held in public, not meetings of the board with the public. There is no legal requirement that the board permit anyone from the public to speak at all. Agenda items are topics of board business, they should never be people. Agendas are set by the superintendent and board chair (and sometimes vice chair) for the purpose of accomplishing board governance work. Agenda items are reserved for those business actions the board and superintendent believe need to be considered for action by the board. For every agenda item the board chair and superintendent should know the content of any presentation to be given, the purpose of any motion that needs to be made. The agenda item should relate to board work. The discussion by board members and the actual action taken is up to the board members, so that is of course unpredictable. The public does not have an official role in setting the agenda or topics of discussion.
Many boards have a policy in place which allows for members of the public to request a topic be placed on the agenda for board consideration. The superintendent and board chair decide whether the topic merits board consideration or action. If they put the topic on the agenda this does not mean that the member of the public will be allowed to speak to that agenda item or that the person has been put on the agenda. Agenda items are topics of board business, they are not people.
However most boards do have an agenda item called "public comment", "public input", "citizen comment" or something similar. If your board has that item, then the board cannot restrict who speaks during that time. The board can restrict the length of time an individual speaks, and can limit anyone from making complaints or negative comments against personnel. The board and superintendent do not have to respond to comments, answer questions, or take any requested action during the meeting. Public comment is just that – a time for the public to comment and the board to listen, not a discussion time with the board. A good practice is for the chair to refer any questions or concerns to the superintendent to be handled later.
If the requested agenda topic is a complaint then the person should be directed to policy KL and encouraged to follow those steps. Ultimately the requestor is permitted by policy KL to bring a complaint to the board AFTER following all of the other steps. The board then decides whether or not to hear the complaint at a meeting.
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