The latest attempt to limit free speech occurred at the last school board club meeting, during which Erica and Jeff Roberts attempted to show their support for the three candidates challenging incumbent club members. The Roberts were interrupted not by the club president but by Vice president Karen Yelsey, who was out of order by doing so.

But that’s up for question, too, because the school board club does not have a formal, written protocol for the the function of its meetings. Do they follow Robert’s Rules of order, the standard guide to operating a meeting such as this? Nope.

They like it that way. If there is no formality, no guide to adhere to so that everyone knows the rules and is treated fairly and equally, you can just make rules as you go along. As I wrote a few weeks ago, one speaker was given just over five minutes – no interruption from the president, not even to say “Please wind this down.’

The district has been sending out these agenda briefs prior to meetings. In the section on public comments, it reads, “Public comment is provided so that members of the community can speak to the Board. If a speaker addresses an issue that is not on the agenda, the Board is restricted from responding to the speaker. If a speaker addresses an issue that is on the agenda, the Board may respond when the agenda item is scheduled to be addressed in the agenda. The purpose of the open meeting law, commonly referred to as the Brown Act, guarantees that public organizations will only make decisions or address issues that have been publicly posted. Public comments on non-agenda items do not meet this threshold.”

There is nothing there about limiting comments to school district matters. In fact, I’ve heard many speakers talk about non-district things. Taxpayers own everything in that building and pay the fat salaries of the bureaucrats who stifle, stonewall, and stymie and if Erica and Jeff Roberts want to let them and everyone else know who is getting their support they have every right to do so. And I don’t care if an expanded explanation seems to give them the right to stifle free speech – if club member Martha Fluor can grandstand about a political issue AT THE SAME MEETING, all bets are off.

Either everyone can do it or no one can. Pick one.

And I maintain that if Erica and Jeff Roberts had expressed support for the incumbents instead of the challengers, we wouldn’t be discussing this issue today.

Discipline? Ha!

Back to the rowdy kids at the football game.

Here’s what: Back in 2001, a sitting school board club member was arrested after a Sept. 27 traffic accident with a blood-alcohol content of .19%, more than twice the legal limit of .08%.

The club member was charged with one count of driving under the influence and one count of driving with a blood-alcohol content of above .08% and was later found guilty of misdemeanor drunk driving. All but one of the seven school board club members chose to support the club member and rejected the seventh’s call for the club member to resign or to be removed.

Three of the school board club members who supported their convicted drunk driving colleague and believed the club member should not be punished at all are still on the board. They are Dana Black, Martha Fluor, and Judy Franco.

I said at the time that the club’s decision to keep the club member on the board would have consequences for a long time.

That time has come.

The club member was really drunk. Got into a car and got into an accident. Penalty: None. In fact, the club member got a lot of sympathy.

The kids at the football game? They got plastered and made fools of themselves. Penalty: suspension from school. Or, at least, that’s what we’re told. The truth may be something else, what with Jane Garland’s revelation that there is a separate class of students known as “high profile” who either don’t get punished or get the equivalent of a hand slap.

So if the club can give a pass to an adult who got drunk, drove a car and got into an accident, where is the justification for any penalty for these kids who did far less?

Answer: There isn’t any.

Despite what they want you to believe, there is no consistent disciplinary policy in the district – no zero tolerance, no posted list of crimes and punishments, no nothing. And they like it that way. It’s like the aforementioned school board club speaking rules: There aren’t any and they prefer to  make them up as they go along to suit the situation.

If I were a parent of one of the football kids, here’s what I’d do:

  1. Take away the cell phone for 90 days. Severely limit computer time to school-related issues for 90 days.
  2. Require my son or daughter to put in MAJOR volunteer time on weekends at a place where people have fallen on hard times to serve as a reminder of just how fortunate or blessed they are. Or a place where victims of drunk driving are getting physical rehabilitation.
  3. Write a sincere apology to classmates and the school administrators and teachers acknowledging his/her actions, using the words “I’m sorry” and stating that if anything like this ever happens again, he/she will willingly accept a transfer to another school.
  4. Fight the school district on ANY disciplinary action. After all, if a mature adult school board club member can get off easy, why should an immature kid get punished?

But that’s just me.

Steve Smith

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