School District of PBC Wants To Limit Parents Comments, State Responds With New Bill Proposal
Citing ‘safety concerns’, SDPBC is trying to limit parents ability to openly voice opinions.
Boca Raton, FL – Boca Post (BocaPost.com) — The School District of Palm Beach County board members will be voting on a proposed policy which aims to limit the public’s ability to address the board members in the public forum. Florida State Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) has apparently countered by proposing a new law which would block these types of efforts.
School District’s Proposed Policy Changes
SDPBC Board member Alexandria Ayala has said that they have “real business to attend to”. SDPBC board members are also citing safety concerns as a reason why they are apparently mostly in support of implementing a new policy which would limit the ability of parents or anyone of the public to address the board in a public forum.
Some members of the board are alleging that some people are only speaking at the board meetings as a platform to speak to people on to TV. Barbara McQuinn, Board Member, SDPBC, District 1 said that ‘The public does have avenues to communicate with us – they can telephone, they can email’ and that ‘we don’t need public comments at that time’.
Erica Whitfield, Board Member SDPBC, District 4, says ‘creating more opportunities for people to be heard doesn’t necessarily work in the favor of promoting the good work of this district’. The SDPBC attorneys have reportedly modeled this policy from Orange County School Board.
While most board members agree, two members, who both regularly used to be on the other side of the podium, are opposed to the new policy changes. Karen Brill, Board Vice Chair, SDPBC, District 3, and Debra Robinson, M.D., Board Member, SDPBC, District 7, have opposed many parts of the proposed police changes which have been drafted by SDPBC attorneys. Brill and Robinson agree that by limiting the publics ability to speak at these meetings they would be further alienating board members from their constituents.
“Systems don’t hear people”, says Robinson. “We need to get better, how are we going to do that if we don’t listen?”. Both Robinson and Brill show their passion in the objection to the suggested policy changes.
Enter Senate Bill 1300
Gruters has filed his proposed SB1300 apparently just in time as it will be considered during the 60 day legislative session starting January 11th. The bill appears to answer the policy changes being proposed by PBCSD as well as other districts in the state.
The proposed bill, if passed and signed in to law, would counter many of the items listed in this new proposed policy changed by the district. Some of the guarantees include:
- Streaming. All meetings must be live streamed, not just recorded, as the district is potentially changing to. SB1300 would require that school district meetings, unless otherwise exempt from FSS 286.011, are live streamed.
- Opportunity to be heard. SB1300 would guarantee parents / members of the public at least 3 minutes to speak on any topic related to the district. Also guarantees at least 30 minutes for public comment at the beginning of each meeting. This is a far cry from what the district is trying to implement.
- Criticism. SB1300 would guarantee that the public is able to “criticize individual district members provided that the speaker maintains orderly conduct and properly decorum”. This directly counters what the district is prospecting as the suggested policies drafted by “a big group of attorneys” specifically prevent direct criticism to any board member during their prospective recorded meetings.
If passed, SB1300 would go in to effect on July 1, 2022, just in time to allow parents to voice their concerns for the 2022-2023 school year.
A copy of the bill in it’s current form can be found at the Florida State Senate’s website: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2022/1300/BillText/Filed/PDF