Managing Public Comment
January 01, 2023
Appears in January 2023: School Administrator.
School board members and district administrators nationwide increasingly have been subjected to negative behavior from people attending school board meetings. Constituents have voiced their displeasure with COVID-19 protocols, requested certain books be banned or pressed districts not to adopt equity, diversity and inclusion policies.
A school district in Texas created a new meeting structure after multiple protests during public comment periods disrupted monthly meetings. Members of the Proud Boys and others who did not live in the community stormed a school board meeting in Illinois to protest the inclusion of the graphic novel Gender Queer: A Memoir in the high schools’ libraries. Parents at a Virginia school board meeting began throwing objects while commenting about COVID-19 protocols, which halted the meeting.
Historically, the public comment portion of a school board meeting gives parents and community members a chance to respectfully share their thoughts or concerns during 2- or 3-minute time allotments. Feedback is an essential part of governance for school boards. However, as school boards find themselves verbally attacked, districts are looking for ways to curb violent rhetoric while still offering community members the opportunity to provide input.