Why Did the School Board of the School District of Indian River County, FL Basically Shut Down Public Comment?

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WikiHow: “Speaking out at community, town or school board meetings is as American as apple pie. Local boards provide a glimpse of Democracy at its most basic level.

The ability to speak directly to a government board – a city council, a school board, college trustees – is perhaps the purest and most basic form of citizen participation.”

Student Press Law Center: “The podium at a governmental meeting is considered a ‘designated’ public forum, meaning a piece of property that has been purposefully set aside for expressive use.”

Minneapolis Public School Board Guidelines for Public Comment:

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The Board of Education values public input. The responsibility of the Board is to actively listen and reflect on public comments. Guidelines for public input emphasize respect and consideration of others.  We ask individuals that desire to speak to respectfully agree to the meeting guidelines below:

  • Public comments occur towards the beginning of the Board business meetings, which occur on the second Thursday of every month.
  • During the 45 minute public comment period, each registered speaker will have up to three minutes in which to address the Board.
  • Up to five people can speak on a specific topic, which allows a diversity of opinions to be presented while being mindful of time.

But at the May 22, 2018 School District of Indian River County School District (SDIRC) Board meeting, Chairman Shawn Frost flipped the public comment section, which occurs before for the meeting agenda, to the end of the meeting agenda. (Please note update below.)

It took approximately three hours for the public to comment while the Board discussed the topic of ending complementary transportation to three local non-profits, the Gifford Youth Achievement Center, Dasie Bridgewater Hope Center and the Boy’s and Girl’s Club; as well as the possible search for a School Board attorney.

When it was time for public comment many people who wanted to make a public comment had left.

According to SDIRC School Board candidate Stacey Klim, “Moving an agenda around to discourage people from speaking is disgraceful.  When a room full of constituents take time to come to a public meeting  they should be given a reasonable opportunity to speak.”

Update:

Stacey Rutledge Klim “At the School Board meeting Tuesday, June 12th, the members
discussed what happened that night. They all agreed they made a mistake. They also all
agreed that from now on, public comment would happen first. I hope that all the new
school board members will honor that decision as that is the way it should be.
Mr. Frost has repeatedly argued that he moved the discussion before input because he
thought community members who came to speak would want to hear the school board
members discuss it first. The argument could also be made that as elected officials it is
more prudent to listen to community members first before making decisions.
Additionally, a community member might offer insight that no one has considered yet
thereby providing a perspective not considered before.
I believe that according to Robert’s Rules, the discussion could have been suspended to
hear citizen input after the school board discussion on the topic. Instead, there was an
additional discussion about putting out a request for proposals for a new attorney. That
discussion lasted an additional 30-40 minutes.
As far as people waiting to speak, there were many young children there. It was a school
night. There was a mother with her young daughter in front of me. The little girl was on
the floor coloring, rubbing her eyes, yawning. She told her mom a few times that she was
tired. The mom finally did what was best for her daughter and left. Not everyone could
stay that long. After talking to many community members, some left because they felt
silenced and disrespected. To ask people to stay that long was unreasonable.
There are many views and opinions on what happened. But now is the time to move
forward. I am happy that our school board recognized the mistake and learned from it.
I’m hopeful it won’t happen again.”

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2 thoughts on “Why Did the School Board of the School District of Indian River County, FL Basically Shut Down Public Comment?

  1. Why not allow public comment both before and after the agenda items are discussed?

    This would allow the public to bring issues of their concern to the Board’s attention before the agenda items are discussed while also giving the public an opportunity to weigh in on the items that were discussed during the meeting. This should help the board better understand public concerns.

    It is truly disgraceful to omit public comment at the beginning of the meeting by pushing off such comment to the end of the meeting. That is clearly an attempt to dissuade the public from commenting and does not speak well of Chairman Shawn Frost’s judgement.

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  2. Stacey Rutledge Klim: At the School Board meeting Tuesday, June 12th, the members discussed what happened that night. They all agreed they made a mistake. They also all agreed that from now on, public comment would happen first. I hope that all the new school board members will honor that decision as that is the way it should be.
    Mr. Frost has repeatedly argued that he moved the discussion before input because he thought community members who came to speak would want to hear the school board members discuss it first. The argument could also be made that as elected officials it is more prudent to listen to community members first before making decisions. Additionally, a community member might offer insight that no one has considered yet thereby providing a perspective not considered before.
    I believe that according to Robert’s Rules, the discussion could have been suspended to hear citizen input after the school board discussion on the topic. Instead, there was an additional discussion about putting out a request for proposals for a new attorney. That discussion lasted an additional 30-40 minutes.
    As far as people waiting to speak, there were many young children there. It was a school night. There was a mother with her young daughter in front of me. The little girl was on the floor coloring, rubbing her eyes, yawning. She told her mom a few times that she was tired. The mom finally did what was best for her daughter and left. Not everyone could stay that long. After talking to many community members, some left because they felt silenced and disrespected. To ask people to stay that long was unreasonable.
    There are many views and opinions on what happened. But now is the time to move forward. I am happy that our school board recognized the mistake and learned from it. I’m hopeful it won’t happen again.
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