The Right To Speak
|Every public meeting must make time for the board to take
public comment. 1 V.S.A. § 312(h). The subjects may be related to the agenda or not. Many
boards allow public comment at the start of the meeting. Others place it as the final
agenda item. Some boards allow public comment whenever anyone present has something to add
to the discussion. Whenever it occurs, public comment is an important time in the life of
a board. It is the one opportunity that members of the public have to speak openly about
Public comment period is not a free-for-all. The
chair of the board is allowed by law to establish reasonable rules to ensure civility and
avoid delay, and reasonable limitations on the amount of time for each speaker are not
unusual or improper.
The law of school boards takes public comment one step further than for
other boards. 16 V.S.A. § 554. Whenever a member of the public requests a written
response to its public comments, the board is required by law to provide a written
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