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Columbia Public Schools parent concerned about possible school board meeting policy change


A Columbia Public Schools parent is concerned a possible policy change could discourage participation in school board meetings.

The Columbia Board of Education is reviewing a proposal that would limit the number of times and length of public comment allowed at meetings.

John Potter, a parent of three Columbia Public Schools students, said the policy would make it difficult for parents to participate in meetings.

"All these new policies and rules, it's going to make it even more intimidating and even harder to grasp or understand," Potter said. "The average parent that's not involved in the school board that wants to make a public comment about one issue that's important to them. I think it's going to be really hard for them."

A reference copy of the proposed policy titled "Public Engagement At Board Meetings" outlines when, how and how many people can make a public comment. The policy was discussed in a meeting of the board's policy committee Tuesday. The full board is scheduled to act on the policy at the Aug. 8 meeting.

The proposal would limit comments to 10 individuals who must meet these requirements:

  • The comment must be directly related to the topic of discussion -- it must be an item on the agenda
  • Members of the public have to pre-register through the school district
  • No speaker substitutions are allowed

Comments are limited to 3 minutes and a person can only comment once during a single meeting under the proposed policy. Also under the policy, if a person comments at three meetings in a row, they are not allowed to comment at the next two meetings.

The person must also meet with the superintendent before adding an item to the agenda. The new policy would also encourage parents and students to use already established grievance processes before taking it before the board.

The policy allows for the suspension of the rules if the board votes for special circumstances.

Board President David Seamon would have the ability to rule comments out of order if they do not follow the rules, including subject matter, repetition or derogatory comments. If a person is repeatedly ruled out of order, the president has the ability to remove them from the board room.

The proposed changes come after several long meetings during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic filled with long periods of public comment.

School officials were not immediately available for comment.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia Public Schools
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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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