To the editor:
I attended the Independence School District’s Board of Education meeting on May 13. I had heard that some Chrisman students were to address the Board in support of their former coach. I was excited that young people wanted to exercise their rights as citizens to present grievances to their government.
Board President Ann Franklin read a prepared statement in anticipation of those public comments. This statement purported to be from the Board’s own policy – presumably Policy 412 and 430 – which can be found on the District’s website. As I read the Board’s own policies, I think that the students should have addressed the Board in open session.
First, nothing in Policy 412 limits the topics which can raised by the public – it limits only the time and number of speakers. There is not even a restriction that any comments be related to matters on the Board’s published agenda. In fact, citizens are merely “encouraged to work through problems at the building and/or administrative levels before coming to the Board.” The students have gone through the administrative channels and not received clear and consistent answers.
Second, the District claims that the players had to address the Board in closed session because the comments were about a personnel matter. However, Policy 430 applies to “actions related to the hiring, firing, disciplining or promotion of a District employee when the performance or individual merit of this employee is considered.” Actions are official votes – not statements which may or may not be made by citizens during the public comment period.
I am not surprised that the Board merely replied “Thank you” to these young citizens. What I am surprised by is why the Board insisted that this be done in closed session. In my years of attending Board meetings, I am familiar with no other similar situation. The Board members could just have easily said “Thank you” in open session.