COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. — In an effort to silence parents who are upset with how their children are being educated, Whitley County Consolidated Schools created new rules to drastically limit the ability of parents to voice their concerns.
“We as a board absolutely want to ensure an environment allowing for meaningful receipt of information.” School Board President, David Smith, said before laying out new public comment rules. Video of the meeting can be seen here.
The new rules introduced at the meeting on Monday, include a total time limit for public comment of 30 minutes, with each speaker having 3 minutes to speak. This means only 10 people can address the board every meeting.
“This evening, we have more people signed up than will fit in that time period.” Smith said. “Those unable to speak tonight will receive priority at the March meeting. After that meeting, anytime we have more who are signed up to speak that will fit in the 30 minute time period, we will randomly draw names to determine who will speak. In that case, there will be no carryover to future meetings.”
Smith also lays out what happens if there is a violation of the rules, explaining the board will have everyone in the building leave for a cool-off period of 30 minutes. If there are more violations, they can simply adjourn the meeting.
Smith then levies threats if the new rules do not work. He says the board may decide to limit public comment to agenda items, require advanced registration to address the board, switching to virtual meetings “where threatening behavior can be better controlled,” or simply suspending public comment all together.
The new rules also give the board broad discretion in determining violations.
“Conduct that becomes belligerent or could be viewed by the law as harassing, bullying, intimidating, defamatory or threatening cannot and will not be tolerated.” Smith said.
WCCS has a history of trying to silence parents. The district made national headlines following a REAL News Michiana story that uncovered how the board was using one of its member’s own law firms to threaten legal action against a parent for simply speaking out against certain Covid protocols.
That same board member later turned his back to parents who voiced concerns about the actions at a later meeting, an action that was caught on video.
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