BCSC returns to in-person meetings

Staff Reports

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. board will return to in-person meetings on Monday, after going to a virtual option last month due to the behavior of community members at school board meetings.

BCSC Superintendent Jim Roberts said Thursday that in addition to bringing in-person attendance back at the 6:30 p.m. Monday meeting at the administrative building, 1200 Central Ave., the public comment section will be moved to its regular place toward the middle of the meeting.

Community residents and school patrons who wish to speak at the meeting will be asked to sign in when arriving at the meeting indicating they wish to comment and will be asked to identify themselves when speaking before the board. Meeting protocols include wearing masks, following public comment guidelines in regard to comment only about agenda items and complying with social distancing requests.

Roberts said he is hopeful that Monday night’s meeting will have better civil discourse that will continue into the future, as commenters will be asked to stick to agenda items and to refrain from personal attacks or aggressive behavior toward each other or board members and BCSC staff..

In September, BCSC moved to a virtual meeting format, citing aggressive and threatening behavior from members of the public during school board meetings.

“This change to a virtual format is driven by episodes of threatening behavior, profanity used during meetings, personal attacks directed toward various individuals, non compliance to meeting protocols that include maintaining appropriate physical distancing, wearing masks, and following public comment guidelines, and a substantial interference with the ability to conduct necessary business,” school officials said in a statement.

The September meeting was livestreamed on BCSC’s YouTube channel, and allowed public comment, which was minimal.

State emergency orders due to COVID-19 from Gov. Eric Holcomb currently allow boards to meet virtually if they wish.

Indiana’s open meetings law has no provision that requires allowing public comment at meetings. Public comment is granted at the board’s discretion, according to the law.

In statements about the Open Door Law in Indiana, Indiana’s Public Access Counselor office has said the law does not guarantee the right to speak at public meetings.”… no specific statutory authority allows an individual to appear before and address a governing body,” state officials said. “A governing body may choose to provide an opportunity for comments or discussion at any time or may allow a limited number of comments or limited amount of time for comments on matters under consideration. During certain meetings, a provision for public comment may be required by statute.