FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 board of directors on Tuesday, April 25, approved a revision for their policy on public comment during school board meetings. The first reading of the policy revision was during their meeting on April 11.

The policy, BEDH – Public participation at school board meetings, was heavily revised and reworded from it’s original version to include more specific details regarding the time allotted for each speaker, their conduct and what type of comments they are allowed to make. The changes also specify what actions the board has in regards to items such as extending time for public comment.

During the first reading, what was being changed and why was discussed, with Elkington citing numerous first amendment lawsuits occurring across the state with school boards.

Elkington specifically cited Regional School Unit 22, who recently had to pay $40,000 over a first amendment violation and is currently undergoing a second lawsuit.

Changes to the policy include:

• The policy specifies that each speaker during public comment is allotted two minutes and is not allowed to relinquish their time to other speakers.


• The policy will prioritize speakers who reside in towns that are serviced by RSU 9 [Farmington, Wilton, Chesterville, Industry, Weld, Starks, Vienna, New Vineyard, New Sharon, and Temple] over non-residents.

• Speakers will be required to state their name and town of residence before making their comments.

• A speaker’s conduct has been elaborated to include refraining from using vulgar and/or obscene language, yelling, threatening others using words or by other actions, making defamatory comments, or otherwise engaging in any activity that disrupts orderly meeting progress.

• Speakers are not allowed to discuss personnel matters during the public comment period due to the privacy, confidentiality, and due process rights of school unit employees and student body.

• Any concerns of personal matters or conduct should be directed to the superintendent or another appropriate administrator outside school board meetings.

• The policy clearly states the Chairperson of the board can and will stop any public comment that is contrary to these rules.


• Individuals who disrupt a board meeting may be asked to leave to allow the board to conduct its business in an orderly manner. The Board Chair may request the assistance of law enforcement if necessary to address disruptions or safety concerns.

At the April 11 meeting, Director Alexander Creznic of Farmington asked if the changes in these policies would restrict what speakers could say.

“I can understand particularly where certain board members would feel uncomfortable, especially personal attacks which should not be allowed,” Creznic stated. “But at the same time, I don’t want to cross over into draconian areas where we just start shutting down comments that we may not necessarily agree with.”

This comment was challenged by many board members, and further elaboration came at the April 25 meeting, with outgoing Director J. Wayne Kinney of Farmington stating that he believed the policy revision allows for a greater range of comments with fewer restrictions.

“This policy, in a lot of ways, actually loosens up some of the things that we had before, and also reflects current realities,” Kinney stated.

“This does reduce some requirements, but still maintains the requirement that people who make a comment not attack or slander employees,” he added.

Director Rich Ruhlin of Industry added to this statement by saying the policy committee focused on the language of the revision, with words like “must” being replaced with “may” to widen the range of public comment.

“It’s opening up a greater access to public comment, it is not restricting it,” Ruhlin stated. “It is allowing and encouraging greater public comment from all sides of issues, but not bogging the meeting down with repetition.”

The board voted the policy in with Creznic and Director Charles Hinds of New Vineyard abstaining.

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