JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — The Jefferson Parish Public School Board has voted to eliminate the public comment period from its regular agenda.
Back on September 20th, when much of Southeast Louisiana was still evacuated or cleaning up after Hurricane Ida – the Jefferson Parish Public School board voted to eliminate general public comment from the standard meeting agenda.
This means that people who come to the school board meeting will not be permitted to comment on subjects other than on the posted agenda.
“By limiting what people can say in school board meetings to agenda items, you are stifling and silencing the feelings and concerns of many community stakeholders,” said John Guzda, a history teacher in JP Schools.
“This is a part of events that shows that this board has blatant disregard for the tenants of democracy and ethical governess,” said another teacher.
While it’s not constitutionally required to allow open comment, the National School Boards Association emphasizes the importance of protecting the public’s first amendment rights at board meetings.
Eyewitness News reached out to the district multiple times about this decision but got no response.
The rule change was endorsed by Superintendent James Gray.
The Jefferson Federation of Teachers stood up at the meeting against the idea, and wants to know what other ways the public can share their concerns.
JFT President Kesler Camese Jones said, “The bottom line, people are not going to be silent. They’re not going to be silent on their concerns.”
Three members of the board spoke out against the change; Sandy Denapolis-Bosarge, Simeon Dickerson, and Ricky Johnson.
“I knew when this was opened up on the consent agenda, it was going to open up a big can of worms,” said Denapolis-Bosarge.
Board members who voted in favor say if you have a complaint not on the agenda, you can reach them by email or phone.
“We’re not hiding. We’re encouraging you to reach out,” said School Board President Chad Nugent.
“If you have something you’d like to talk about, please contact us. Please stop me before the meeting’s over with or at the end of the meeting.”