The Hall County school board on Monday approved an updated version of its public comment policy, though it appears to be mostly a formality.
“This was required by state law,” said Superintendent Will Schofield. “It will be our intent in the future to continue to value very much what our public has to say.”
Gainesville City Schools recently heard a first reading of an updated public comment policy. If approved, citizens would be required to contact the superintendent before noon on the day of a meeting.
In April, Gov. Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 588, which requires local boards of education to adopt rules for how people can behave at school board meetings. Local boards have until Oct. 1 to comply with the law.
“Speakers are asked to keep their remarks civil,” Hall County’s policy says. “Profane, rude, defamatory remarks and personal attacks will not be allowed.”
The same can’t be said of some other Georgia school districts. In Forsyth, a woman was kicked out of a meeting in March for fuming about the “filth” in libraries. In Cherokee, a woman was ruled “out of order” for reading a brief excerpt from a book that seemed to depict a sex scene.
The updated policy notes that public input is not an occasion for back-and-forth discussion. The board will listen to citizen comments, but members are not required to respond or answer questions.
“Public participation is an opportunity for Hall County citizens to express their opinion and/o
provide feedback to the Board in public, but public participation is not a forum for questions and
Answers,” the policy says. “The Board will not respond to comments made by the speaker during public participation unless they choose to ask questions.”