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Board meetings are held to transact the business of the School in the presence of the public.  So that citizens have the opportunity to be informed about the operations of the School, meetings are open to the public, except when closed meetings are conducted, as permitted by the Open Meetings Act.  The Board shall provide opportunities at its meetings for citizens to address the Board in public, but may impose reasonable restraints on the length of presentations, and, in so doing, shall not unfairly discriminate among views seeking expression.  Gov't Code 551.002,.003; Tex. Constitution Art. I, Sec. 27

UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

TSBVI shall take no action abridging the freedom of speech or the right of the people to petition the Board for redress of grievances. U.S. Const. Amend. I, XIV

When the board sits in public meetings to conduct public business and hear the views of citizens, it may not discriminate between speakers on the basis of the content of their speech or the message it conveys.  Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Virginia, 515 U.S.819, 828 (1995); City of Madison v. Wis. Emp. Rel. Comm’n, 429 U.S. 167, 176 (1976); Pickering v. Bd. of Educ., 391 U.S. 563, 568 (1968)

The Board may create a limited public forum for the purpose of hearing comments from the public so long as:

  1. The Board does not discriminate against speech on the basis of viewpoint;
  2. Any restrictions are reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum; and
  3. The Board provides alternative paths for expressing categories of protected speech that are excluded from the forum.

Fairchild v. Liberty Indep. Sch. Dist., 597 F.3d 747 (5th Cir. 2010)

LIMIT ON PARTICIPATION

Public Comment

The Board shall allow each member of the public who desires to address the Board regarding an item on an agenda for an open meeting of the Board to address the Board regarding the item at the meeting before or during the Board’s consideration of the item.

Public participation is encouraged during the open forum portion of a meeting.  At all other times during Board meetings, the audience shall not enter into discussion, or debate, on matters being considered by the Board, unless recognized by the President. 

Time Limits

No citizen presentation shall exceed five minutes per agenda item.  When the individual members of a delegation of persons have requested to speak on the same or similar topic, the President may request the delegation to designate a single spokesperson, but each citizen has the right to address the Board.

In the event that time allotted to address the Board may be insufficient for a speaker, all speakers who address the Board are encouraged to provide their comments in writing, and if possible, to provide ten copies of their written comments.

Additional Time for Translation

If the Board does not use simultaneous translation equipment in a manner that allows the Board to hear the translated public testimony simultaneously, the amount of time that a member of the public may address the Board through a translator must be given at least twice the amount of time as a member of the public who does not require the assistance of a translator in order to ensure that non-English speakers receive the same opportunity to address the Board.

A request for an interpreter for a language other than Spanish shall be made in writing at least 5 days prior to the Board meeting so that a professional translator may be located.  Speakers may also provide their own interpreters. 

The following procedures shall apply to citizens' communications:

Sign-Up Sheet

  1. A person or representative of a group or organization shall be required to sign up on a form provided by the Board prior to the beginning of the meeting. The person signing up shall give the subject to be addressed, his or her name, address and telephone number and if applicable, the group or organization the person represents.

No person shall be permitted to exchange time or to yield time to persons not signed up.

  1. Citizens' communications shall be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
  2. The Board meetings must focus on the educational needs of visually impaired students. Therefore, speakers shall present their comments in a respectful manner, displaying civility.  Profanity, vulgarity, or character abuse (slander) shall not be permitted.

Board’s Response

  1. Specific factual information or recitation of existing policy may be furnished in response to inquiries; however, except for a proposal to place the subject of the inquiry on the agenda of a subsequent meeting, the Board shall not deliberate or determine any subject that is not on the agenda posted with notice of the meeting. The Board President may direct the Superintendent to respond to questions or statements at a later time; however, Board members shall not conduct a dialogue with a speaker.  [See BE]

Complaints Against Employees

  1. Complaints about specific School personnel are not appropriate for presentation during citizens' communications and shall not be permitted. Such concerns shall first be addressed to the appropriate administrator as required by Board policy, and, if unresolved administratively, may be addressed to the Board as a scheduled agenda item in closed meeting, unless the employee who is the subject of the complaint requests that the complaint be heard in open meeting.  [See DGBA, FNG, GF]

Public Criticism of the Board

  1. The Board may not prohibit public criticism of the Board, including criticism of any act, omission, policy, procedure, program, or service. This does not apply to public criticism that is otherwise prohibited by law such as slander or privacy violations.

Additional Public Forum

  1. In the event these provisions for public comment do not, as determined by the Board, meet the needs of the community, the Board may schedule a public meeting as soon as practicable for the purpose of hearing from additional speakers.

Gov’t Code 551.007

DISRUPTION

It is a criminal offense for a person, with intent to prevent, or disrupt, a lawful meeting, to substantially obstruct, or interfere, with the meeting by physical action, or verbal utterance and thereby curtail the exercise of others' First Amendment rights.  Penal Code 42.05; Morehead v. State, 807 S.W.2d 577 (Tex. Cr. App. 1991).

The Board shall not tolerate disruption of the meeting by members of the public.  If, after at least one warning from the President, any person continues to disrupt the meeting by his, or her, words or actions, the Board President shall request assistance from law enforcement officials or TSBVI Security Officers to have the person removed from the meeting.

Adopted:         3/25/94

Amended:       11/14/97, 3/21/03, 4/1/05, 6/1/18, 1/31/20

Reviewed:       1/24/02