Lawmakers could set rules for school board comments

A Senate Republican filed a proposal Friday that would set requirements for school boards to take public comments during meetings, including requiring that speakers be allowed to criticize individual board members. 

The bill, filed by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, comes amid a turbulent time for school boards, which have faced protests and opposition about issues such as mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The bill (SB 1300), in part, would require school boards to set aside at least 30 minutes at the beginning of meetings for public comment. It also would require boards to give individual speakers at least three minutes to address each item on meeting agendas. 

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In addition, it would allow "speakers to criticize individual district school board members, provided that the speaker maintains orderly conduct and proper decorum." 

The bill also would add the right to be heard at school board meetings to a list of parental rights in state law. 

Gruters, who doubles as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, filed the bill for consideration during the 2022 legislative session, which will start Jan. 11. He also is sponsoring a proposal (SJR 244) that seeks to move to partisan school-board elections, after they have been nonpartisan contests for the past two decades.

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