Constituent policy

Cobb school board adopts public conduct policy for meetings

“The goal is to complete the business of the people,” Cobb School Board Chairman David Chastain said.

The Cobb Board of Education passed rules for next year on Thursday govern the behavior of members of the public at school council meetings.

An amended resolution passed 6-1 Thursday night, with the vote against cast by board member Charisse Davis of Post 6 which includes part of East Cobb.

(You can read the new rules by clicking here.)

The measure sets out conditions for what constitutes disruptive behavior and how the board can take action in response, including allowing the school board to meet in an alternate location if disruptions get out of control and calling in the forces of the order to intervene “in any potential violation of law.”

A new state law gives local school districts until Oct. 1 to develop rules that must be passed each year.

Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale told the board during a Thursday afternoon business session that the rules he was proposing “should not be confused with the public consultation policy.” The rules “require a vote and must be reviewed annually”.

Darryl York, director of policy and planning for the Cobb School District, told council members that “much of the language” in the proposed rules is already in the books.

The new law, SB 588, states that members of the public “shall not be expelled from such public meetings except in cases of actual disruption and in accordance with rules adopted and published by the local school board.”

In July several citizens protested at the Cobb school board meeting after the council voted to hire armed guards for the schools.

Some attendees who shouted at the board to delay the vote continued their disruptions afterwards, and chairman David Chastain called for a suspension. Protests continued, with some shouting “Shame on you!” that the meeting was adjourned.

The new rules give the Chairman of the Board discretion to apply them.

During Thursday’s business session, South Cobb board member Tre ‘Hutchins expressed concern about provisions he said would discourage free speech and wondered how they would be enforced. work in the event of serious disturbances.

“I would hate to see on television a citizen being escorted out of this room for exercising his constitutional rights,” he said. “I would like to know what that discretion looks like.”

But Ragsdale replied that “you have no constitutional right to disrupt a meeting”.

Smyrna board member Jaha Howard questioned a provision that would allow the board to meet elsewhere – with a live stream available to the public – if the disruption was a problem.

Chastain, of Station 4 in Northeast Cobb, said he could not recall a meeting where the board was unable to complete its business.

Chastain also told Howard that “you weren’t there in July,” a reference to Howard attending that meeting virtually.

“The goal is for us to finish the people’s business,” Chastain said.

Board member Jaha Howard told him that “you have much more faith in the chairman of the board than I do. You have not been the victim of confinement.

At Thursday night’s voting meeting, the board agreed to a request from Howard to change the rules to combine prohibitions on “boos, shouts or other disruptive noises” and “any other means a participant may use to disrupt the meeting” in the same bullet point.

Davis did not explain his vote against the rules.

Ahead of the vote, former Cobb Schools guidance counselor Jennifer Susko, a regular district and council critic, said in a public comment session that she and others speak the way they do. were doing because they were constantly blocked.

“To avoid being confused by us, consider responding to your constituents, in any way,” she said. “The teasing, yelling and other disruptive noises only happen because you refuse to respond to your constituents.

“Most of us would rather not be there all the time to disrupt, but we have no choice, since it’s the only way to be heard. I look forward to adjustments in all of our behaviors.

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