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BEDH - Public Participation at Committee Meetings

Policy BEDH

Adopted: December 19, 2013
Amended: October 19, 2023

All regular and special meetings of the School Committee shall be open to the public. Executive sessions will be held only as prescribed by the Statutes of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

A School Committee meeting is a meeting of a government body at which members of the body deliberate over public business. The School Committee desires members of the Hopkinton school community to attend its meetings so that they may become better acquainted with the operations and the Hopkinton Public Schools. In addition, the Committee would like the opportunity to hear the ideas of members of the Hopkinton school community on matters within the scope of their authority. These matters include the budget for the Hopkinton Public Schools, the performance of the Superintendent, and the educational goals and policies of the Hopkinton Public Schools.

In order that all who wish to be heard before the Committee have a chance and to ensure the ability of the Committee to conduct the District's business in an orderly manner, the following rules and procedures are adopted consistent with state and federal free speech laws:

  1. At the start of each regularly scheduled School Committee meeting, individuals or group representatives will be invited to address the Committee during its 15-minute public comment period, which shall be known as Public Comment. Public Comment shall occur prior to discussion of Agenda items, unless the Chair determines that there is a good reason for rearranging the order at a public meeting that is unrelated to deterring participation in Public Comment. 

  2. All speakers are encouraged to present their remarks in a respectful manner. That individual or representative will be reminded of the public nature of a School Committee meeting and will be advised against specifically naming students or district employees in his/her comments.

  3. Speakers must begin their remarks by stating their name, town or city of residence, and affiliation. Speakers will be allowed three (3) minutes to present their “material.” All remarks will be addressed through the Chair of the meeting. Speakers must speak from the place indicated by the Chair. No speaker may speak more than once without permission of the Chair.

  4. Public Comment may concern items that are not on the School Committee's agenda, but which are within the scope of the School Committee's authority. Therefore, any comments involving staff members or students must concern the educational goals, policies, or budget of the Hopkinton Public Schools, or the performance of the Superintendent.  

  5. Large groups addressing the same topic are encouraged to consolidate their remarks and/or select a spokesperson to comment at Public Comment. The Committee will not hear personal complaints regarding school personnel, students, or others which are outside the scope of the School Committee’s responsibility at public comment; instead, any such complaints should be directed to the appropriate school administrator. 

  6. Speakers who require reasonable accommodations on the basis Hopkinton Public Schools of a speech-related disability or who require language interpretation services may be allotted a total of five (5) minutes to present their material. Speakers must notify the School Committee by telephone or email at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting if they wish to request an extension of time for one of these reasons. 

  7. The Chair of the meeting may not interrupt speakers who have been recognized to speak, except that the Chair reserves the right to terminate speech which is not constitutionally protected because it constitutes true threats, vulgarities, fighting words or remarks likely to provoke a violent reaction, incitement to imminent lawless conduct, comments found by a court of law to be defamatory, and/or sexually explicit comments made to appeal to prurient interests. Verbal comments will also be curtailed once they exceed the time limits outlined in paragraphs 3 and 6 of this policy and/or to the extent they exceed the scope of the School Committee's authority.

  8. In accordance with M.G.L. c.30A, §20(g), no person shall address a meeting of a public body without permission of the chair, and all persons shall, at the request of the chair, be silent. No person shall disrupt the proceedings of a meeting of a public body. If, after clear warning from the chair, a person continues to disrupt the proceedings, the chair may order the person to withdraw from the meeting and if the person does not withdraw, the chair may authorize a constable or other officer, or the meeting host for any remote attendee, to remove the person from the meeting.

Public Comment is not a time for debate or response to comments by the School Committee. To ensure that matters not on the agenda are not deliberated on without proper notice, members of the School Committee will not engage in dialogue with members of the public during public comment, without permission from the Chair.  Any School Committee member may direct questions to the speaker through the Chair in order to clarify comments of the speaker.  The Chair may, at their discretion, place an item that requires further deliberation on the agenda for a future meeting.

Comments made at Public Comment do not reflect the views or the positions of the School Committee. Because of constitutional free speech principles, the School Committee does not have the authority to prevent all speech that may be upsetting and/or offensive at Public Comment.

Legal References:

MGL Chapter 30A §20(f)

Cross References:

BE - School Committee Meetings
KE - School Related Problems and Concerns

BEDA - Notification of School Committee Meetings

Adapted References:

MASC Model Policies

School Committee Policies