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CLOQUET SCHOOL BOARD: What do you have to say about public participation at board meetings?

Members of the Cloquet School Board tabled a vote on a new version of its existing (but rarely enforced) policy on public participation at school board meetings.

Superintendent Ken Scarbrough presented the board with proposed changes to the policy and a summary of the policy that could be handed out to people who attend or want to speak at a board meeting, so they know the procedure, he said.

Included in the current policy (as well as the suggested new one) are several procedures regarding citizens speaking about agenda items, including time limits, and requiring that citizens in attendance sign in if they wish to address the board during the public comment portion of the meeting, among other things. (Editor’s note: Find a complete summary of the public participation rules at the bottom of this story at www.pinejournal.com.)

Board member Dan Danielson thought the new policy should set a specific time limit such as three minutes so the board couldn’t be accused of discriminating against certain speakers, although Scarbrough suggested that the policy also allow the board to extend those times.

“I’m comfortable with the policy, but I’m not comfortable with passing it tonight,” board member Jim Crowley said. “I would rather wait and see if we get any feedback first.”

The board voted to table the issue, likely until the next board meeting Nov. 23.

SUMMARY OF NEW POLICY: Public Participation in Regular School Board Meetings

The School Board meeting is a meeting “in public,” and not a public meeting. In order to conduct its work in a professional and business-like manner, the school board has established the following rules for conducting the meeting:

Open Forum

  • The school board shall normally provide a specified period of time where citizens may address the school board on any topic, subject to the limitations of this policy. The school board reserves the right to allocate a specific period of time for this purpose and limit time for speakers accordingly.

  • The school board may decide to hold certain types of public meetings where the public will not be invited to address the school board. Possible examples are work sessions and board retreats. The public will still be entitled to notice of these meetings and will be allowed to attend these meetings, but the public will not be allotted time during the meeting to address the board

  • Comments and questions on issues are welcome at the scheduled time on the agenda. The school board is prohibited by law from discussing concerns about individual employees or students in a public meeting. Please forward comments or issues regarding individual employees or students to the school superintendent at 302 14th St., Cloquet, MN 55720.

Procedures

  • If you would like to speak to the school board, you will be recognized during the public comment portion of the meeting. The public may comment on any item on the agenda. The school board generally does not take action on any issue that is not on the agenda. Concerns or questions are forwarded to the superintendent for review and recommended action before consideration by the school board. Unless requested by a school board member, items on the consent agenda are not discussed by the school board at the meeting.

  • Citizens in attendance need to sign in if they wish to address the school board. Forms are available on the table next to the agendas. Individuals will be recognized in the order received.

  • Individuals who wish to address the school board or ask questions need to be recognized by the board chair. They should state their name and address, identify the topic about which they want to address the school board, and limit comments to three minutes.  Everyone wishing to address the school board will be heard before anyone speaks twice.

  • The board chair may put additional limits on time to present to the board if needed. If several people want to address the same issue and point of view, the chair may ask for a spokesperson to speak for the whole group.

Data Privacy and Personal Attacks

  • Matters proposed for placement on the agenda which may involve data privacy concerns, which may involve preliminary allegations, or which may be potentially libelous or slanderous in nature, shall not be considered in public, but shall be processed as determined by the school board in accordance with governing law.

  • The school board chair shall promptly rule out of order any discussion by any person, including school board members, that would violate the provisions of state or federal law, this policy or the statutory rights of privacy of an individual.

  • Personal attacks by anyone addressing the school board are unacceptable. Persistence in such remarks by an individual shall terminate that person's privilege to address the school board.

Complaints

  • Routine complaints about a teacher or other employee should first be directed to that teacher or employee or to the employee's immediate supervisor.

  • If the complaint is against an employee relating to child abuse, discrimination, racial, religious, or sexual harassment, or other activities involving an intimi­dating atmosphere, the complaint should be directed to the employee’s supervisor or other official as designated in the school district policy govern­ing that kind of complaint.  In the absence of a designated person, the matter should be referred to the superintendent.

  • Unresolved complaints from paragraph 1 of this section or problems concerning the school district should be directed to the superintendent’s office.

  • Complaints which are unresolved at the superintendent’s level may be brought before the school board by notifying the school board in writing.
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