Florida School Board Moves to Censor Speakers and Prohibit Broadcast of Public Comments

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‘We’ve seen a taste of what can happen when there aren’t guidelines in place’

In response to months of public backlash from parents and residents opposed to forced student masking, School Board members in Palm Beach County, Florida, are proposing new rules to censor and limit the public’s ability to voice their opinions and prohibit broadcasting of all public comments.

According to the School Board of Palm Beach County website, “speakers will not be denied the opportunity to speak on the basis of their viewpoint.” Pursuant to Florida statute § 286.0114, “the public shall be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard on a proposition before a board or commission.” Florida statute § 286.011 states that all meetings of public boards or commissions must be open to the public and the minutes of the meetings must be taken, promptly recorded, and open for public inspection.

The new policy, being drafted by school board attorneys, would limit the number of people who would be allowed to speak at public meetings and the amount of time they are allowed to speak. The new rules would also prohibit any speaker from addressing any board member by name, criticizing any board member, superintendent, or district staff member, and would prohibit the broadcasting of all public comments during all board meetings.

The Board

“We have real business to attend to,” said school board member Alexandra Ayala told the Sun-Sentinel, “and we’ve seen a taste of what can happen when there aren’t guidelines in place. We’re just sitting here for hours not doing the business and we’re backed up on things that really need to get pushed through.”

“I am a firm believer that a vibrant democracy requires engaged citizenry,” Ayala told The Epoch Times in response to a request for a statement about her comments. While insisting “our students, parents, employees, and taxpayers play a crucial role in sharing unique insights about the efficacy of the district’s operations and often illuminate opportunities for significant improvement,” Ayala did not answer the question of identifying precisely what “business” the board is “backed up on” and unable to “get pushed through” while “just sitting here for hours” listening to public comments of her “engaged citizenry.”

Board member Erica Whitfield told The Palm Beach Post her constituents are “truly there to speak” to the board but “to people on TV,” and because the board is “giving them a platform … more people come” making it “very difficult for us to get the job done.”

By Patricia Tolson

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