Letter: School Board Silences Dissent

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The School Board’s meeting on March 12 is described by some present and online as “a new low,” and “toxic people, toxic process,” with multiple comments alluding to soap opera sequels, including “‘Big Little Lies’ meets ‘Bad Moms’ and ‘Mean Girls.’”

The most accurate description: “We just witnessed selective silencing of an elected School Board member…people who elected Dee Perry denied equal representation…”

The community has embraced presiding officer rotation for years. The board tried to keep rule but deny Perry equal participation. Instead of suffering in silence, Perry spoke up, not for herself, but to ensure pluralism so a diversity of voices can be heard in managing the board agenda.

Legalisms aside, politically repeal of rotation bylaw confirms current President Jan Vickers was not legitimately elected. Election by majority is sufficient under state law, but the board has authority under education code to adopt rotation rule. So, repealing rotation bylaw by majority vote was in order before, not after, the president was elected.

Board member Normandin posed basic questions about board procedures to a high-priced lawyer brought in at taxpayer expense to coach the board. He finally cut her off, recommending remedial instruction on Robert’s Rules of Order.

Asked by Normandin to suggest language for the bylaw on agenda management, board counsel recommended Googling a school board association lobbying website to copy generic bylaw. Sort of like students using Cliff Notes. Her own conspicuous parliamentary ineptness didn’t stop Normandin from poisoning debate by lashing out at Perry for allegedly lacking skills to preside over board meetings.

Normandin’s spouse stood to demand I be silenced, too, for taking up the board’s time. Not letting his wife speak for herself, he absurdly declared me unqualified to speak to bylaw issues because I practice law in Washington D.C., not California.

I’ve been attending board meetings since 1968, and my family’s been in local schools five generations. I don’t do it as a lawyer. Speaking on multiple agenda items is a parliamentary tactic purposefully enabled by state open meeting laws so the board can’t control content of record.

Finally, Board member Peggy Wolf demanded example of parents fearing retaliation due to district actions against its critics, as if parents wary of repercussions should be outed at her command. Wolff may just get the examples of retaliation she asked for sooner rather than later.

 

Howard Hills, Laguna Beach

 

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