Citing public safety, Loudon County Public School officials announced this week they will alter the public comment portion of their school board meetings in a dramatic way.
“Only people signed up to speak to the school board will be allowed to enter the building,” according to the Loudon County Public Schools website.
“For everyone’s safety, no public viewing area will be open during the public comment portion of the meeting.”
School system officials said they are modifying their policy “in direct response to the increase in threats and the unruly and unsafe behavior at the June 22 board meeting.”
They will implement the new policy in time for their August 10 meeting.
“Specifically, ongoing security threats require a response that keeps public commenters, staff and school board members safe on school property,” according to the website.
“Although the school board is committed to public input, there remains concern about the safety of all participants in the public-input process. The safety and security of all staff, students and visitors remains our highest priority.”
School system officials specified the following new rules as they pertain to the public comment portion of each board meeting:
• In lieu of attending the meeting, the public may register for in-person or virtual public comment and can also submit written comments, which school board members will receive.
• The school board public comment period opened at 9 a.m. Friday, August 6, and will close at noon on the day of the meeting.
• Members of the public must fill out the registration form in full and register only as an individual speaker. Speakers should participate in one method of comment only.
• For those who have not pre-registered, school system officials will accept walkup registrations for public comment at the front of the building until five minutes before the start of the meeting.
• One hour prior to the posted start time of the meeting, school system officials will post the list of pre-registered speakers at the Loudon County Public Schools Administrative Offices at 21000 Education Court, Ashburn, as well as posted on the school division’s website.
• School system officials will list virtual speakers first.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Loudon County School Board Members” by Loudon County Public Schools.