The Prince William School Board (PWSB) and Virginia Beach School Board (VBSB) are both considering changes to public hearing procedures, a move aimed at making meetings more efficient in an era of controversial school board decisions. The PWSB proposal includes an expansion of the citizen comment period from 30 minutes to 60 minutes, but limits speakers to two minutes for a total of 30 speakers. It also prohibits members of the public from having signs in the school board meeting room.
PWSB Chair Babur Lateef read that proposal for the first time at the Wednesday meeting. He explained, “The Prince William County School Board wanted to review the proposed revisions intended to improve our efficiency and safety of board meetings increase avenues of communications with the public particularly on agenda items and incorporate recent legislative changes to provisions of Virginia FOIA as they relate to the confidentiality of the personal contact information of citizens.”
Lateef also read a proposed change to rules for board members during the meetings, including a provision that requires 24-hour notice before adding agenda items except for time-sensitive matters, and reducing the board’s speaking time from four minutes to three minutes. Both policies will be voted on at the next meeting.
Lateef told InsideNova, I don’t want what happened in Loudoun County to happen here, it’s just chaos.”
In a lengthy public comment period, speakers spoke against Critical Race Theory and against the changes.
Public commenter Lee Bravo told the board, “The fact that this decision is being based on what happened in Loudoun County is unjust and unfair. We as parents and taxpayers of Prince William County should have the right to speak our minds about what is taught to our children and your actions should revolve around what happens in our county not Loudoun.”
Bravo added, “The bullying and discrimination shown by school board members to citizens of this county is purposeful and meant to shut us down.”
The VBSB is considering proposals to limit speaker time, merging agenda and non-agenda item speakers, and a possible cutoff time with continuation at the end of meetings, according to 13NewsNow. In an open letter, Board Member Victoria Manning opposed the proposal.
“People are upset about decisions made by this Board and they have the right to speak,” she wrote. “The members of the public who have come to speak have been peaceful and have attended our meetings out of passion and true concern for the children of the City of Virginia Beach Public Schools. Still members of this Board have tried to paint these parents, grandparents, Pastors, community leaders, etc as a ‘violent mob’ and that false narrative needs to end.”
According to wavy.com, Board Member Sharon Felton said, “We are not trying to limit the speakers. We are just trying to be considerate, of all other business that we have to do as a board and get it out in an appropriate time.”
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