Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Public Comment at School Board Meetings

Letters to the Editor submitted to The Coronado Times are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher, editors or writers of this publication. Submit letters to [email protected]

Submitted by Patti Flores-Charter

Many of us are making public comment at School Board Meetings for the first time. This is great and what participatory government is about. Emails can go directly to public officials serving us also.

While at Southwestern College in a leadership and administrative position I had to be clear on the requirements of the Brown Act for public comment, so I wanted to share how to find the actual law and the latest court case that state what boards can do for public comment. Without this information directly from the source, misinformation or misinterpretation can and does occur. This can distract from very well meaning members of the public who want to participate in a meaningful way. It can also disrupt the board’s ability to get business done on the agenda.

The latest law on Public Comment was amended in AB 1787 Chapter 507 and signed into law on Sept. 23, 2016. You can google Bill Text – AB-1787 Open Meetings: public comments and the link to the bill language will pop up.

Here is what the law says:

“The Ralph M. Brown Act requires a local legislative body to provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the body concerning any item described in a notice of meeting. The act authorizes the legislative body to adopt reasonable regulations limiting the total amount of time allocated for public testimony for each individual speaker.”

To further assist in understanding the board’s legal rights, in December 27, 2018 Ribakoff v. City of Long Beach, et al. (again, just google this) found that the time limit placed on Public Comment by the city of Long Beach was not a violation of First Amendment rights (freedom of speech). This latest case is one of many law suits that have lost in court.

I hope this provides the opportunity to clear up misinformation being promulgated in publications and elsewhere in our community.

Patti Flores-Charter

Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]