Are we required to take public input at every meeting and if so what restrictions can we put on the public input?
October 12, 2012
Board meetings are meetings of the board held in public, not meetings of the board with the public. There is no legal requirement for the school board to take public comment or input. The board is required to hold their meetings in public, where the public can observe discussions, deliberations and votes by board members on public business. It is good board practice to allow a time for public comment during regular board meetings once a month. Your board may have a policy that specifies the process to be followed and limits each speaker's time. It is not a good idea to engage the public in a discussion at this time. All comments should be directed to the chair. It is appropriate for the chair to direct the superintendent to answer any questions or concerns with the speaker at a later time. It may also be appropriate for the chair to refer the speaker to a policy regarding their question or concern.
If there is a topic about which the board wants to engage the public in discussion about or get input on, I recommend the board schedule a "listening session" and invite members of the public to attend and speak. You'll have a better chance of hearing from all sides if you advertise this session. Make clear the board's expectations for this session and inform attendees that the board will make decisions at a later school board meeting, not at the listening session. If all members of the board (or a majority) plan to attend the listening session, it should be posted as a special board meeting.
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