Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Grove City School Board Considers Limiting Free Speech

Cue up the Darth Vader music, comrades...

President Jane Rath and the rest of the school board had a "first reading" of a new policy concerning public comments during school board meetings. They go as follows:

- Public discussion can only last 30 minutes.
- No citizen may speak for more than three minutes.
- No citizen may speak to any board member, other than the one directing the meeting (typically president Rath).

Keep in mind that very rarely do citizens attend school board meetings. Also, if they do attend, very rarely do any citizens speak. So, why the change? If I want to criticize tax policy, I should be able to take a reasonable amount of time to lay out my case. If I want to speak about a great baseball game, theater production, or band concert, I shouldn't be limited to three miniscule minutes.

This is pure politics and abuse of power, folks. Rath just won re-election. She has nothing to lose by pushing this along. She can use her power to shield the five members who face re-election next year. There is no good reason why this policy should take effect. No citizen rambles on and on during meetings. With this change, the public cannot take full advantage of the Constitution to face elected officials and question their actions...well, as long as you keep it under three minutes and direct your comments to Der Kommissar.


Jason Reeher said...

My letter to the Slippery Rock and Butler Eagle newspapers:

If there is a way to limit free speech, the Grove City Area School Board will find it. A recent policy proposal would limit citizens’ participation at board meetings, requiring a seven-day advance notice on the subject to be discussed. The intent of this outrageous policy is clear: the GC School Board is attempting to stem a swelling tide of public criticism.

This strategy of limiting public participation is not surprising. This is, after all, a school board that has over the last two years engaged in such acts as ignoring state audit recommendations, skirting the Sunshine Act, and firing a good teacher for no apparent reason. The board also has the unpopular habit of raising taxes and cutting student programs to pay for administrative raises.

The seven-day notification of intent to speak at a pubic meeting is an assault on free speech rights. Residents have no idea what the school board will be addressing until we see the agenda for that evening’s meeting. The proposed policy would prevent any citizen from speaking against an agenda item. This is a crucial consideration: if you were to attend a board meeting and saw that the board was planning that evening to raise taxes or fire a teacher or reinstate district-wide corporal punishment, you would be permitted to say nothing.

Residents should be appalled. Why is the school board requiring a seven-day advance notice of potential criticism? Can you imagine the Lincoln-Douglass debates (or even the Bush-Kerry debates) under such a rule? “I’d love to address your concerns about slavery—can you give me a week and I’ll get back to you?”

The GC School Board’s proposal is a disgusting abuse of power and an affront to residents. Blame weak-willed board members like Jim Crow, David Rothman and Robert Montgomery. They may be able to limit your speech rights, but next May, you won’t have to say a word to vote them out of office.

Jon Webster said...

The funny thing is that the students have had no speech for years, barring the few ass kissers and children of local bigshots. As a former student of this sad excuse for a school, I can only say you have brought this on yourselves. For too many years you have kept the status quo and therefore allowed thses people to go into power. But you don't care about that, you just want your conservative ways to continue. Grove City school did nothing but opress me and my liberal views, and it no wonder those who don't feel the same are forced to lash out in the ways of bomb threats and the like. I am so ashamed to be from this hell, and just being here for the summer make me sick. You should realize that the school board is just following the example the administration has follwed for years. Hope you enjoy it.

Rich Talbert said...

Oddly, Mr. Webster, the school board has been incredibly liberal for the past few years.

When you grow up and start losing massive amounts of your paycheck to taxes, you'll become conservative, too.

And you'll see how damaging a liberal school board can be. Remember - the Nazis and the Soviets were socialist, not conservative. They were the ones that stifled free speech and taxed the daylights out of the masses.