Tim Chitwood: Muscogee school board says policy restricting what public may say at meetings is not new

March 17, 2013 

Muscogee school board members Monday night said their policy restricting what residents addressing the board may say is not significantly different from the current one.

The board already requires seven days' notice before someone may reserve a spot on its public agenda, said Superintendent John Phillips during Monday night's meeting.

The board is to vote on the policy in April, said board chairman Rob Varner.

The proposed and current policies in PDF files are posted with this column.

After Columbus attorney Frank Myers' altercation with Phillips last week, Myers could not get back on the agenda Monday night because he made his request too late Friday.

The policy now proposed states: "If an individual desires to speak, he/she must make a request to the Superintendent of Education to be on the agenda seven days prior to the Board meeting. Any individual desiring to speak shall give his/her name, address, and the group, if any, that he/she is representing. … Unless an extension of time is granted, a speaker shall be limited to five minutes."

He/she shall be limited to certain topics, too:

"Speakers may offer such objective criticisms of school operations and programs as concerns them. In public session, the Board will not hear personal complaints of school personnel nor against any person connected with the school system. Other channels provide for Board consideration ... of legitimate complaints involving individuals."

And when you're standing at the microphone talking to the school board, watch your mouth: "No profane or vulgar language nor personal abuse against any person shall be permitted. The Board vests in its chairperson or other presiding officer authority to terminate the remarks of any individual when he/she does not adhere to the rules established above."

And finally, don't expect too much: "Persons appearing before the Board are reminded ... that members of the Board are without authority to act independently as individuals in official matters; thus, questions may be ... deferred pending consideration by the Board."

Tim Chitwood, tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.com, 706-571-8508.

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