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Public Participation at Board of Education Meetings

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Public Participation at Education Meetings Translations

Public Comment Sign In Translations

 

General Provisions

The Board of Education values public participation and recognizes the importance of public input on issues affecting the community, the Board of Education and the Albuquerque Public Schools.  This procedural directive has been adopted to balance the importance of public participation with other important objectives, including but not limited to:

  • Ensuring all community members have a reasonable opportunity to express their views to the board;
  • Completing board business effectively, efficiently and in an orderly manner; and
  • Respecting the rights of board members, district staff, students and audience members.

Proper decorum and the provisions of this procedural directive are expected to be followed at all public meetings of the Board of Education. 

At each open Regular Board of Education Meeting pursuant to the meeting agenda, members of the public may comment to the Board of Education, subject to reasonable restraints.  When a Board of Education meeting is in session, “the government may not exclude speech…on the basis of content unless the restriction passes strict scrutiny.” [Sandefur v. Vill. of Hanover Park, Ill., 862 F. Supp. 2d at 846 (N.S. Ill. 2012)] However, the Board of Education is permitted to “enforce reasonable time, place and manner restrictions provided they are content neutral, they are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest and ample other alternative channels of communication exist.” [Sandefur, 862 F. Supp. 2d at 846; Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. at 791] The reasoning behind such restrictions is because “disruption of the orderly conduct of public meetings is indeed one of the substantive evils that [government] has the right to prevent.” [Collinson v. Gott, 895 F.2d 994, 1000 (4th Cir.1990)]

Though not a general practice, public comment, subject to reasonable restraints, may occur at a special or committee meeting of the Board of Education at the discretion of the committee chair.

The Board of Education restrictions on decorum, etiquette and public comment are outlined in this procedural directive.

Sign up for public comment shall begin thirty (30) minutes prior to the Regular Board of Education Meeting commencing and shall end promptly at the commencement of the public comment period.  In extenuating circumstances, the Board of Education Services Office staff may forward the name of an individual wishing to speak during public comment and sign up on their behalf if prior arrangements have been made.

The public comment period shall be limited to thirty (30) minutes per Regular Board of Education Meeting.  The board president, or presiding officer, shall have the right to limit speaking time of individuals wishing to provide comment to the board to no more than (2) minutes each.  Dependent on the number of individuals signed up to speak during the public comment period, the board president, or presiding officer, may shorten the time available for each individual to speak to allow more speakers to be heard.  Recognized speakers shall not transfer or delegate their time to others.  If a speaker is no longer present in the meeting room at the time he/she is recognized, the speaker shall forfeit his or her opportunity to speak and shall be prohibited from transferring the time to a different individual.  Delegations, who wish to express their views, shall select one speaker to represent the delegation’s views to the board.  When in the judgment of the board president or presiding officer, it appears:

  • That several audience members wish to express the same or similar views; the board president or presiding officer may recognize one of them to address the board on behalf of the group; or
  • A speaker is repeating views that he or she, or another speaker, already has presented; the board president or presiding officer may recognize the next speaker before the current speaker’s time has elapsed.

Board of Education Member Etiquette

The New Mexico Open Meetings Act prohibits open discussion amongst board members for any item not listed on the Board of Education Meeting agenda.  Therefore, Board of Education members shall treat public comment as a time to listen to the comments from attendees of the Board of Education meeting.  Public comment shall not be a time for open dialogue with the speaker.  Public comment shall not be a time for board members to answer questions posed to them from a speaker or comment on a speaker’s concerns. 

If the board member chooses, he or she may respond to concerns of speakers during board member reports at such time board member reports appear on the meeting agenda. 

Speaker Etiquette

Speakers shall direct their comments to the board and not to district staff or other audience members.  Speakers shall not expect board members to answer questions during public comment.  Questions shall be referred to the superintendent, or his/her designee, for review, study and response.  If appropriate, the board may request the issue be a discussion at a future Board of Education meeting. 

Individuals appearing before the board shall follow these guidelines:

  • Sign up to speak for participation in public comment prior to the commencement of the public comment period of Board of Education Meeting and understand that the privilege to speak is determined on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • If the speaker wishes to distribute documents to the board members, the speaker shall provide the district employee responsible for public forum sign in twelve (12) copies of the documents at the time the speaker signs up to speak.
  • Address the board only at the appropriate time as indicated on the agenda and when recognized by the board president or presiding officer.
  • The use of posters, banners or other items may be generally acceptable.  However, if such items, per the discretion of the board president or presiding officer, disrupt the proceedings of the meeting, pose a safety concern, or block the view of the meeting from other audience members or the cameras used to webcast the proceedings,  the board president or presiding officer may request speakers and audience members to refrain from using them. 
  • Identify oneself and speak within the allotted time available for each individual speaker.
  • Observe and respect the board president or presiding officer’s decision to shorten public comment to conserve time and give the maximum number of individuals an opportunity to speak.
  • Conduct oneself responsibly, civilly, courteously and with due respect.  Conduct of speakers shall be no different than expected conduct of visitors at an APS school as stated below.
    • No person on school property or at a school event shall perform any of the following acts:
      • Disrupt the educational process for students and staff.
      • Strike, injure, threaten, harass or intimidate a student, staff member, a board member, or any other visitor to school property.
      • Behave in an unsportsmanlike manner or use vulgar or obscene language.
      • Unless specifically permitted by state statute, possess a weapon, any object that can reasonable be considered a weapon or looks like a weapon or any dangerous device.
      • Damage or threaten to damage another’s property.
      • Damage or deface school property.
      • Respect the fact that the speakers’ views and opinions may not be shared by all present. 
      • Observe that speakers shall not express non-job related complaints against the superintendent or board members unrelated to their offices or jobs.
      • The Board of Education encourages speakers to focus on topics of concern, not personnel they believe to be responsible.    The board shall provide and direct the speaker to a district staff member at each Regular Board of Education Meeting who may listen to specific personnel complaints which shall be referred to the superintendent, or his/her designee, for review, study and response.

Only speakers who acknowledge and adhere to the terms of speaker etiquette shall be permitted to speak during public comment to the Board of Education.  A form shall be presented for signature and acknowledgement of the terms of speaker etiquette.  The form shall outline these requirements.  Individuals refusing to sign the provided form of acknowledgement or complete the requested information shall be prohibited from speaking during public comment.

Audience Etiquette

Audience members shall conduct themselves in the same manner as outlined above for individual speakers.  Audience members shall not disrupt an open public meeting of the Board of Education and shall not incite others to do so either.  Therefore, raucous or disrespectful expressions of agreement or disagreement by audience members shall be considered inappropriate and subject to regulation by the board president or presiding officer. 

All members of the audience shall remain seated unless recognized by the board president or presiding officer.

Media Etiquette

Members of the media are welcome at public meetings of the Board of Education.  Members of the media and media equipment shall be required to video and photograph from a designated media representative area of the room in which the Board of Education Meeting is being held.  Media representatives shall cooperate with district staff regarding placement of equipment, photography and video requirements or be subject to removal from the meeting. 

Enforcement of Appropriate Etiquette

The board’s president or presiding officer shall be responsible for ensuring that public participation and comment assists the board in discharging its responsibilities and is conducted according to this procedural directive.  Thus, the board president or presiding officer shall be authorized to enforce this procedural directive by:

  • Interrupting presentations and comments to remind speakers and audience members of this procedural directive;
  • Dismissing or ending the speaking time of previously recognized speakers who violate this procedural directive;
  • Requesting speakers or audience members to leave the meeting if they violate the procedural directive in a manner that is disruptive to the board business;
  • Requesting the assistance of law enforcement officers to assist in removing speakers or audience members who refuse to leave;
  • Recessing or adjourning the meeting as a result of speaker or audience conduct that is in violation of this procedural directive;
  • Individuals who violate this procedural directive may be subject to criminal charges and may be prohibited from future meetings;
  • Arresting or filing criminal charges against a speaker or member of the audience who is violation of this procedural directive pursuant to §30-13-1 NMSA 1978.
    • §30-13-1 NMSA 1978 states that it is a petty misdemeanor to “disturb any meeting of the people assembled for any legal object.”

Other Opportunities to Provide Public Comment

Public comment at a Board of Education Meeting shall not be the only opportunity for the public to provide comment to the Board of Education.  The board may receive public comment through written letters, email communication and phone calls.  The Board of Education Services Office shall be responsible for publishing all avenues by which the public may comment to the board members.  Ways to contact board members shall be made available upon request and at each Regular Board of Education Meeting.

Petitions and written or electronic correspondence to the board shall be presented to all board members.  The Board of Education Services Office shall not be required to present information to the board members that was received anonymously.  The Board of Education Services Office reserves the right to summarize information, correspondence and comments received prior to providing the information to the board members. 

Albuquerque Public Schools reserves the right to summarize public comment in the official Board of Education Meeting minutes.

Administrative Position:                      Executive Director of Board of Education Services
Department Director:
                           Board of Education Services Specialist

References:

Legal Cross Ref.:                                          Sandefur v. Vill. of Hanover Park, Ill., 862 F. Supp. 2d at 846     
                                                                      (N.S.Ill.2012)
                                                                      Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. at 791
                                                                      Collinson v. Gott,
895 F.2d 994, 1000 (4th Cir.1990)
                                                                      §30-13-1 NMSA 1978
Board Policy Cross Ref.:                                BE Board of Education Meetings
Procedural Directive Cross Ref.:            
Forms:                                                           Public Forum Sign In

NSBA/NEPN Classification:                         BEDH

Introduced: June 11, 2014
Reviewed: July 23, 2014
Revised: August 6, 2014

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