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Public comment rules to change at Pasco School Board meetings this week

Speakers will be divided into two sections.
More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times
More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times
Published May 6
Updated May 6

As they prepared to begin video recording meetings, Pasco County School Board members decided to change their rules for residents who want to make comments, too.

Beginning Tuesday, those new procedures will take effect.

The yellow cards that people traditionally have submitted to indicate their desire to speak will now be gone. In their place will be green cards, issued only to those who want to say something about an item appearing on the agenda. That section will come at the start of the meeting, before the board takes any actions.

“This gives us a chance to get the business that has to be dealt with now over with,” board chairwoman Alison Crumbley said. “That way, people at the meeting for a specific agenda item can leave. I think it’s going to be more efficient.”

Each speaker will continue to receive three minutes to comment. The board intends to hold to its hour set aside for the public input.

If any of the hour remains after everyone has talked about the agenda items, the time left will be offered at the end of the meeting for comments about items not on the agenda. Those speakers will fill out pink cards instead.

The board moved to split the time, in part, because it did not want to include the non-agenda commentary on whatever meeting videos it eventually puts online. The goal is for the board to begin recording its meetings in July, after adopting a policy on how it will work.

Officials’ rationale was that they wanted to be cautious of inadvertently revealing student personal information, noting some speakers in the past have talked about private details of children not their own.

But the move also comes after several months where many speakers have dominated the public input section with comments about transgender student rights and related issues, none of which have been scheduled for board action.

Board members have said they want to allow people to offer their views, but they also do not want the meetings to become soapboxes for people to espouse political views just to get them on camera. Several other school boards have taken similar actions, including the Hillsborough County board, which stopped broadcasting its public comment earlier this year.

Note: This post has been updated to include the new colors for speakers cards.

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