The Struggle to be Heard
There’s been a lot of coverage concerning the mishandling of public comment at York City School Board meetings. I’ve been there, I know the feeling; it doesn’t feel good to be shut down on technicalities and the board’s mechanical adherence to stifling public comment policies.
But, it was different for me. Maybe it was because the York LP has already proven we’re staunch defenders of the first amendment and don’t shy away from public struggle, or maybe they were just in a good mood. When I brought forth my beef with the school district’s public comment policy at a town hall meeting just a short six months ago, I was personally invited back to a meeting to air my concerns before the board by YCSD Supt. Dr. Holmes, himself.
Bring the Children Back Into Focus
I would like the Supt. to step in and offer the same gracious invitation to the children that were denied the right to participate and be heard by the school board. The school board’s actions send the wrong message with regards to open participation, transparency and conflict resolution in an already turbulent city environment. It’s up to the school board to make things right by making the children the focus again. Bring the children back to the table, let them be heard. Anything less is a disservice and a failure to lead. This goes beyond the subject of pending litigation and the question of which of the varying interests at play gain the upper hand.
Is the image of a belligerent, disconnected solicitor sharpening his teeth and legal stencil at the expense of the misfortune and indignity suffered by children at a school board meeting the image the school district actually wants to project? I’d be ashamed if I was the solicitor tasked with stunting the participation of children at a public school board meeting.
Fighting to Make a Point or Fighting for Systemic Changes
I’d much rather see the district embrace the approach offered by Supt. Dr. Holmes with regards to its public comment policies and overall public engagement and participation. That would require one missing element, and that’s the community itself. It’s easy to scoff at the school board and condemn its lack of a prudent public comment policy; but what good is a sound public comment policy if no one is ever present when it comes time to participate and put such a policy to good use, or if necessary, to the test?
The school board largely operates in a vacuum. They’re left to govern among their own devices, with little to no public interaction at meetings. It’s really no wonder – though still a shame – that the school board has never amended its public comment policies. They’ve rarely been given the opportunity to put them to the ultimate public test. That’s the fault of the school board’s constituency, rather than a villainous plot launched solely by the school board itself.
Checks and balances are a necessary part of public affairs, but I would have liked the school board to have reached a consensus on new public comment policies without the need for the antagonistic litigation and protracted tit-for-tats that currently color the situation.
If this doesn’t cause more people to attend school board meetings, get informed and take a stand on something – anything – then it’ll all subside until that wave of sensationalism comes rolling back in again, driven by the same dark waters of political and social stagnation that set this cycle into motion in the first place. It’s up to the community to make change; and standing on the sidelines won’t cut it.
Full Video of snippet linked above can be found below
The York LP will be present at upcoming board meetings to address the issue of the school district’s public comment policy. Please join us and stay tuned for further updates on the blog.