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Washington County Board of Education member encourages colleagues not to refer to 'citizens'

Justin Hartings says, 'we serve a lot of students and a lot of people who are not citizens and there's nothing wrong with that'

August 13, 2012

Washington County Board of Education member Justin Hartings recently encouraged his colleagues to change any reference to “citizen” to “public.”

“I know there’s a big debate in this country about immigration and (it’s) my opinion that that’s not appropriate, for this body,” Hartings said at the end of the Aug. 7 school board meeting. 

“But, I do know that we serve an awful lot of people who are not citizens and that has nothing to do with their legal status either,” Hartings said.

“We have American citizens who are stationed overseas in the military who marry people in other countries and come here. My cousin is married to a woman from Colombia. She’s lived in this country for 15 years and still hasn’t been able to get her citizenship just because the process is so broken,” Hartings said.

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“These people live in our communities, they go to our churches, they pay taxes. They do everything but get to vote for us,” Hartings said.

Hartings made his comments during the board member comments portion of the meeting. Earlier in the meeting, board member Jacqueline Fischer said the Policy Committee, which she chairs, would be discussing the policy and regulation by which board meetings are governed and citizen participation.

“Citizen participation” is the wording used on board meeting agendas for the period of time set for public comment.

“So, I would just encourage all of us as we go through that process to, to focus on public comment rather than citizens because we serve a lot of students and a lot of people who are not citizens and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Hartings said.

The Policy Committee’s agenda for its Aug. 14 meeting at the Central Office, off Commonwealth Avenue, includes a discussion about the policy for “public participation.” That meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

— Julie E. Greene

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