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Grand Rapids school board will likely compromise on a policy regulating public comment

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
When the board disussed the policy in January, some members suggested they needed to screen members of the public. Maureen Slade (middle) gestured at security guards at the meeting, 'I don't think we have anything to fear from our public.'

The Grand Rapids Public School Board has a unique policy. People who want to talk about something that’s not already on the agenda must sign up 5 days ahead of time, and explain to officials what they want to discuss.

Opponents of the policy say it intimidates people from expressing their concerns.

A special committee recommended the board get rid of the advance sign up requirement. But the comments will not be televised.

Board member Maureen Slade sat on the special committee that crafted the compromise. 

“(Televising) is not a requirement. I know most school boards do not go live – I know we’re real popular (laughs) but frankly we want to hear people’s comments and that’s the purpose that people come to us. I don’t suspect that they’re coming because they want to be on television.”

The advance sign up policy was adopted after a number of people used the public comment time to voice personal attacks against other parents, school board members, and school staff.

Many board members who were skeptical of changing the rules expressed support for the compromise.

The board will have a chance to adopt the new policy later this month.

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