Marc Terry quoted in Education Week "School Boards Are Limiting Public Comment. Will That Erode Trust?"01/27/2023
Marc Terry, an attorney who represents school districts in Massachusetts, said he would advise boards against severely limiting or eliminating comment time, even if they are permitted to do so.
“My advice would be to think about a different approach,” he said. “You should … not allow a small amount of people who are amped up on a particular issue to cause you to remove public comment.”
Any policies on comments should be “content-neutral” so it doesn’t seem that the board is censoring criticism or disagreement, Terry said.
Even limitations on “defamatory comments” or incivility have been difficult for some boards to legally enforce.
Policies should focus on simple limitations like the length of individual comments, total time allowed for comments at a given meeting, and how to sign up to participate, Terry said.
Some policies have also included reminders to focus on policies that are under board jurisdiction.
Local news reports show some boards have also voted to limit comments to specific agenda items, though various state laws and courts may differ on whether such limitations are permissible.