Prince William County School Board voting to change public comment policy

The Prince William County School Board will vote to implement new public comment rules Wednesday night. 

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This comes after the last meeting grew tense with speakers attacking that plan as well as criticizing the critical race theory and school system’s mask mandate.

People are upset with the potential new changes and they think they’re being put in place as a safety measure due to the chaos that unfolded at Loudoun County meetings where things got out of hand.

 FOX 5 asked Prince William County School Board Chair Babur Lateef to ask and he said the goal is to cut down on how long meetings last.

"During the pandemic, we found far more interest in citizen comment time and what ended up happening is our meetings went two, three, four, five six, seven, eight, nine hours long," Lateef said. "To make the meetings more efficient, to ensure effective governance, to foster civil discourse, and to make sure we’re engaging the public on the matters that are the importance of the school board – we wanted to change the citizen comment time."

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Currently, the policy allows for one 30-minute comment period where 10 people can speak for three minutes each. With the newly proposed policy, there will be two 30 minute periods. That allows 20 people to speak for three minutes each.

The first half will deal with items on the agenda, the second half for items not on the agenda and that’s it--no extra time given for any other speakers.

"One of the biggest complaints we got last year were that these meetings would go so long and we could be criticized for taking decisions at two and three in the morning and the public who is watching these meetings so closely because of even our students cause the pandemic were staying up until two, three in the morning and it just wasn’t efficient," Lateef said. "Frankly, even for the board members, I don’t think we make our best decisions at two and three in the morning."

The school board adds that people who can’t attend in-person would now be allowed to send in a video. However, many feel these new rules are to shut down their thoughts and opinions.

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"No logical conclusion can be drawn other than this board wants to limit the time it actually has to sit and listen to its constituents. Does anyone believe that this board is actually going to sit and watch every video submission? Half of the time you can’t even get an e-mail response from some members of this board," one speaker said. "The fact that the board is entertaining these changes tells me that the board is planning on some controversial policy changes and doesn’t want to hear from the people they work for. we the people."

"Your changes are pitiful," another woman who attended the meeting said. "You are a board of 90-thousand children, but you only allow public testimony to two hours a month. You don’t have to follow Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, and Loudoun – we don’t trust you anymore."

 The school board chair says this is pretty much a done deal, but they will vote on it during their meeting, which started at 7 p.m. Wednesday night.