Brevard County Public Schools: We Won’t Hear You!

We always thought that the School Board was to help teach children, not act like them.

Fed up with people expressing their opinions in public meetings, the School Board looks to reign in comments from people:

The Brevard County School Board will soon vote on new rules aimed at taming its boisterous public comment period, which has sometimes extended meetings in recent months by hours and required intervention from security.

The rules would allow the board to shorten speaking times when large numbers of speakers are present, prevent speakers from raising signs during meetings and relegate non-agenda public comment until the end of the meeting without broadcasting it.

Clearly this is in response to the often boisterous meetings where the School Board has been caught in the crossfire of opposing points of view.

We have written how the School Board fanned the flames of difficult meetings by violating the First Amendment.

It is easy to see how when the School Board makes it clear that the laws of the land don’t apply to them, people will get upset.

This “we don’t need to listen to you” attitude has extended to meetings dealing with the mask mandate within schools. Arguably the mandate goes against the State ban on mask mandates by School Boards, but that doesn’t matter to the School Board.

Now the School Board will vote on rules that will make it more difficult for people to express ideas, and more difficult to inform the public of what was said at meetings.

The changes come in response to an influx of public speakers at board meetings. School Board meetings have come to feature sometimes 40 or more public speakers, most of whom focus on mask mandates, critical race theory or other heavily politicized issues regardless of agenda items, extending the length of meetings by sometimes hours.

“Extending the length of meetings by sometimes hours?”

The point?

The School Board and schools say they want public and parental involvement and now they say that involvement takes too long?

Last time we checked, members of the public were the only people in the room not being paid with taxpayer dollars.

If the School Board does not like the fact that public participation is going to take time, then resign. It is that simple. Everyone of the School Board members said they would listen to the public and now that the public is speaking more than ever, the Board wants to shut the public down.

Speakers have regularly clashed verbally with the board during public comment

sections, often shouting or refusing to leave the podium when their allotted time expired. Some have been led out by security after being asked to leave.

We want to make this clear: speakers and audience members who get into shouting matches with Board members are wrong. It is counterproductive for people to act like an unruly mob. If someone gets into a shouting match, or goes over their allotted time to speak, we have no problems with them being escorted out of the building. We mean that sincerely. If they won’t go, we have no problems with them being arrested either.

If people want the School Board to listen to them, then act in a manner that demands they do. Be better than the School Board when it comes to speech and dialogues.

School Board Chair Misty Belford said the board’s general counsel suggested some policy changes to reign in the public comment section after the issue was brought up at a board retreat in late August.

Not filming the non-agenda items could remove some of the incentive for public speakers to act out, Belford said. She added that the board is not required to broadcast comments on non-agenda items, and other counties hold space for public input on non-agenda issues without broadcasting it.

“There is some consensus that perhaps it would cut down on some of the … I’ll say, more robust behaviors,” Belford said.

This is bizarre.

Belford and the Board is going to try to say that by not broadcasting parts of a meeting will make things better.

First, all that will happen is that people will bring their own cameras and cell phones to record the meetings. If the people are quiet while filming, there is nothing that the Board can do to stop them. Secondly, as the Board has to accommodate large crowds by making a video broadcast available in other areas and or rooms, the Board has to film the entire meeting for those areas, which creates the public record which means people can get it in the long run.

Not broadcasting the meeting in its entirety comes off as what it is – petty and vindictive.

Speakers addressing issues not included in the agenda would speak after the meeting, and their comments would not be broadcasted. Signs in the board room would have to remain with one edge touching the ground so that they do not block other audience members’ views.

We have severe doubts about the signs with one edge on the ground rule. Usually rules deal with size of signs and any backing material (such as a stick) that may become a weapon. (We can’t wait for someone who is holding an 8 1/2″ X 11″ sign against their chest to be told they have to put them on the ground.)

Of course, the irony here is that the School Board is saying they want to make sure that people can see the meeting in one breath, and then in the next cutting off the broadcast so outside of those in the meeting room and whose size is restricted in number due to COVID and fire regulations, no one can see what is going on.

Politics and topics that are being discussed are often contentious and nasty.

We know that there are people out there who want to simply cause trouble on any side of any issue.

We know that there are well meaning people who are angry and frustrated and don’t know how to get their message, feelings and opinions across.

Penalizing the good people for the actions of a few is ridiculous, especially when there are avenues to remove the troublemakers and let the others stay and be heard.

Instead, the School Board is taking the approach of being a bully – the type of bully where rules and laws don’t apply to them, but their rules (however illegal they may be) apply to others.

The School Board is showing once and for all, that they do not welcome comments and input from parents, students, employees, or anyone in the community.

Like so many bullies and elected officials who seek to end citizen involvement, this will not end well.

Community members and the Board should act in the manner they want to see from the other group.

Citizens need to calm down and the School Board needs to keep open the lines of communication and not shut them off like spoiled brats.

2 Responses to “Brevard County Public Schools: We Won’t Hear You!”

  1. Thomas Gaume says:

    The only time the BCSB listens is when they’re asking for your vote.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Thomas Gaume,

      Thanks for the comment.

      We are going to make a slight comment in that we don’t think that the BCSB listens when they are asking for your vote. That is what they tell you, and that is what they want you to believe, but they aren’t listening even then.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.