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Washington County Board of Education postpones action on public comment policy

Committee will continue work on policy

August 21, 2012

Washington County Board of Education members decided Tuesday night to hold off on approving a new policy regarding public comments during public meetings so more work could be done on the policy.

School board member Justin Hartings said he wanted to avoid situations in which members of the public speak about an issue yet board policy forbids board members from responding to them.

The proposed new policy, up for a first reading Tuesday night, was a good start, but he wanted to see more, Hartings said.

Board member W. Edward Forrest said the board needs to walk a fine line in changing the policy because changes could result in situations in which a board member could grandstand for political reasons, a board meeting could become a debate session, or a board member could inadvertently make a policy statement and get the board into legal problems.

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Board President Wayne Ridenour said he had no problem with the proposed changes if a majority of the board approved them, but said he would vote against the first reading of the new policy because he wanted to send the issue back to the board’s policy committee.

Forrest withdrew his motion to approve the new policy for a first reading.

One idea board members talked about was adding a second time for board member comments to the agenda, one specifically for board members to respond to public comments.

Board Vice President Jacqueline Fischer, who chairs the policy committee, said the committee would work on the issue at its Aug. 28 meeting.

— Julie E. Greene

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