Question period at the Chilliwack School Board no longer allows “rants” from the public, and it seems that won’t be changing anytime soon.
A change was made earlier this year to the public participation portion of the board’s publicly held regular meetings. Where the public used to be able to step to the mic to make a statement or ask questions of the board on topics on or off the agenda, it’s been pared down considerably.
The public may now only address issues pertaining to agenda items, and that must be in question form. Those asking questions state their name and their relationship to the school district.
The change was made following several meetings that were overtaken by people against the use of SOGI 123 materials, with some speakers coming from other cities to make statements to the board. Chilliwack’s school board meetings are recorded with a live feed available through YouTube.
However, at Tuesday’s meeting, Trustee Darrell Furgason made a motion to restore the ability for the public to speak about any issue they feel the board should be aware of. He said the current rules “discourage community involvement.”
But several of the trustees said that the new public participation rules have calmed down the atmosphere in the room, which had become “toxic.”
Trustee Jared Mumford stated that the actions of the public at some of those meetings resulted in some trustees not feeling safe.
Board chair Dan Coulter said it was “beyond-the-pale craziness” and doesn’t want to see a return to that, but Trustee Barry Neufeld noted that the participation was also up in the voting booth.
“We had some rowdy meetings,” he said. “But we were rewarded with a healthy turnout.”
In the end, only Furgason, Neufeld and Trustee Heather Maahs voted in favour of the amendment, and it failed.
There are a few ways to get in touch with trustees, and their emails and phone numbers are on the district’s website. However, Furgason noted that letters and phone calls don’t get made public.
“We don’t have to broadcast other people,” Coulter countered. “It’s not the school board’s job.”
The district’s YouTube channel has 128 subscribers and the majority of past meetings have well over 500 views, one with 1.2K.
By Wednesday morning, 140 people had tuned in to watch at least a portion of Tuesday’s meeting.