A concerned parent was arrested at a school board meeting in Gilford, NH after he failed to respect the meeting rules limiting the speech of members of the public to two and only two minutes. The articulate gentleman, who ultimately ended up in cuffs, wanted to understand how a sexually explicit book became part of his daughter’s instruction and insisted the board answer his question. The Youtube video of this May 5th incident is worth a few minutes of your time:
For me, the most interesting aspect of this video is the similarity of Gilford meeting rules with those in Timberlane.
- Gilford limited public comment to two minutes. Timberlane allows a three minute maximum.
- The Gilford School Board refused to answer questions, or comment in response to comments from the public. Timberlane’s School Board has the same practice. The chair of Gilford’s School Board told the parent that there would be no comment or response from the board because a school board meeting is a business meeting of the board where the public can have an opportunity to make comments to the board, but the board does not make comments back. Timberlane’s board has exactly the same policy. Here is an excerpt from Timberlane Policy BEA: “Meetings of the Board are conducted for the purpose of carrying on the business of the schools, and therefore are not public meetings but meetings held in public.”
- Not one member of the Gilford School Board protested the arrest of the composed and articulate concerned parent. Unanimity seems a universal virtue on school boards. [There is some question as to whether the chairman encouraged the police to make the arrest or if the police officer acted on his own, but it was without protest from the school board.]
Although state statute says school board meetings do not have to allow public comment, school boards in our beautiful state have cultivated a practice of not being answerable to their electorate at meetings. What school boards need to realize is that they are in fact accountable to parents and that the very business of the board is to be responsive. That means at meetings, too.
And if you wonder why school boards are so much that same across the state, look no further than the New Hampshire School Boards Association (http://www.nhsba.org).