Thursday, September 12, 2019

Public Participation Policy Change Needed

Should the Richland 2 School Board change its policy about Public Participation at the twice-monthly school board meetings?

Currently, if you want to speak, it is necessary to sign up and sign in. You must write your name on a roster sheet and you must fill out a Request-to-Speak Form. This form can be viewed and printed by simply clicking here. Or visit the District's website:

Go to
Click on EXPLORE
Click on School Board
Click on Participation Request to Speak Form

You must fill out this Form before the public session of the meeting begins. This means you must arrive by 6:20PM, quickly fill out the form before entering the board room and then get it into the right hands to be delivered to the Board Chair. (Or print at home and fill out before you arrive.)

If you arrive at 6:30PM, you will be too late, because that's the starting time of the public session.

There are two public participation sessions. Perhaps the second is considered for overflow; i.e., if too many people sign up to be accommodated during the first segment.

It would be reasonable for the board to accept a Request to Speak Form after 6:30PM and then either call on the member of the public wishing to speak during the first session or the second. Often, the first Public Participation segment doesn't begin for 30 minutes into the meeting, especially if the Recognition and School Focus segments run long.

But here is what would be even more reasonable. Scrap the Request to Speak Form and just let people speak. The Board Chair could recite the "rules of the road" and then recognize anyone who raises his hand to speak. The current way is about C-o-n-t-r-o-l.

I've not seen them refuse three minutes to anyone who had signed up, but past-Board Chair Amelia McKie did change the order of speakers fairly frequently. And I have seen them refuse speaking time to someone who didn't arrive before the 6:30PM gong. This doesn't make any sense at all, except for C-o-n-t-r-o-l. Is this degree of C-o-n-t-r-o-l really necessary?

And I'm probably the only person who has ever been cut off before the end of three minutes. One night I attempted to change topics after my first minute, and then-Board Chair McKie silenced me. I attempted to argue for the balance of my three minutes and then gave in. I later heard that it was good that I had sat down when I did, because the District's security officer was coming up behind me. Apparently, he intended to escort me away from the microphone. Since no order had been given by the Chair to remove me, it had to have been pre-arranged. Who set that up?

At the time I considered her cutting me off as a violation of the First Amendment. I had three minutes, but I got only one.

But there are other fish to fry here that are more important, and I decided not to fight that battle (at that time).

When Craig Plank was Board Chair, speakers were invited to give their name and address and enjoy their three minutes. Last year, when McKie was Board Chair? Don't give your address. Why not? The only reason I can think of is it makes it harder for an interested person to make contact with the speaker, perhaps to share an opinion or support for the speaker's position.

The Board doesn't respond to a speaker during the meeting. The Guidelines indicate questions could be referred to staff for research and recommendations, followed by a response (to the speaker), but I have never heard the board direct a staff member to research, investigate and respond to a speaker.