Last month, we provided guidance about certain legal considerations that may inform a board’s decision to conduct virtual board meetings.
As with any potential solution, there come occasional problems, and a recent disturbing trend is for certain attendees to effectively crash and commandeer public board meetings. What should you do?
Accordingly, here are a few tips to try and limit the opportunity for disruption while preserving the public’s right to attend and participate in school board meetings:
The district website should include meeting details (Date, Time, and Location) as well as a link to “Register” for the meeting, as well as the Board Agenda as early as practicable.
While the majority of attendees will participate via virtual webinar, the district should also maintain the typical physical location for the meeting – adhering to all social distancing guidelines – with a District representative in attendance.
The meeting should be set up as a Webinar, not a virtual meeting.
If you already simulcast through other sources, maintain simulcast, but ensure all comments are disabled through those other sources.
Who are Your Participants?
- Host – IT (preferred) or some other designee
- Co-Host (video/audio on) – Board President once program starts
- Panelists (video/audio on) – Board Members and Solicitor
- Attendees (video/audio off) – Registered members of the Public
How to Handle Public Comment
Through Webinar (Turn off any ongoing Q&A feature)
Attendees viewing webinar have option to “Raise Hand”. Then the Host/Co-Host can unmute one at a time to permit public comment.
They should first state their full name and address of residence
Individuals can be re-muted after comment or if in violation of Board Policy limits on content and/or duration
Alternate method for individuals dialing-in or watching simulcast
Board President should announce at the beginning of the meeting that anyone not participating in the Webinar through a computer or smartphone, may email their public comment to a designee who will read their comment verbatim in accordance with Board Policy on Public Comment.
Emails must include the individuals full name and address of residence.
Any deliberation on official action must take place in the webinar and cannot be done through separate text or emails between members.
If there are any video or technical issues with a Board members access to the webinar, a roll call should be done.
Host must end conference immediately after meeting concludes to avoid personal statements in a public forum.
Once our current circumstances resolve, the Board should ratify all actions taken via virtual meetings.
Bottom Line for Schools
There is no absolute way to prevent persons from “trolling” your virtual meeting – anymore than there is an absolute way to prevent an individual from disrupting your in-person meeting; however, we hope these tips will assist you in dissuading most if not all those would-be meeting-crashers.
As always, consult with your school solicitor or reach out to one of the attorneys at KingSpry if you have any questions regarding whether your methods and procedures are in danger of infringing on the right of the public to attend and participate in your regular board meeting.
Note these tips were prepared and tested with Zoom Webinar functions. Nevertheless, the guiding principles of maintaining control of who, how, and when attendees can participate would be applicable with any virtual medium.
School Law Bullets are a publication of KingSpry’s Education Law Practice Group. This article is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.