By Brandi Makuski
School Board Candidate Sam Levin has filed a formal protest against the School Board President.
Levin, who also is running for reelection to the Portage County Board of Supervisors and serves as a Village of Whiting Trustee, says Rothmann overstepped his authority last month when he imposed “sanctions” against members of the public who are rude or disrespectful while addressing the school board during public meetings.
“I fought for years to finally get the board to allow public comment,” Levin said in an interview with the City-Times. “Now they’re taking steps backwards. This is totally against the Constitution of the United States of America. Aren’t we in the business of educating our students? Try educating them about the importance of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
In a letter to the school district, Levin said he wanted the district to reverse Rothmann’s decision.
I am writing this as a formal protest to Terry Rothmann’s santions that he decided to apply at the last Stevens Point Public School Board meeting.
It is my belief that Mr Rothman overstepped his bounds as President of the board by putting sanctions on speakes during the Public comment portion of the agenda. According to policy his request for sanctions should have been noted on the agenda allowed for public comment, and voted on by the entire board prior to implementation.
A call to Rothmann’s office on Friday was not immediately returned.
During a February meeting Rothmann announced anyone addressing the board in a manner which was “disparaging” could be barred from speaking.
“Effective tonight, I’m issuing the following procedures; the first instance of violating this policy by a speaker will result in a warning to that speaker,” Rothmann said during the meeting on February 24th. “The second instance of violating this policy by a speaker will result in that speaker being asked to take a seat. He or she will not be recognized to speak again for the remainder of the meeting.”
He went on to read the board’s policy on addressing the board:
All public comments shall be three to five minutes in length as determined by the Board. No person may speak more than once to an issue, except upon the consent of a majority of the School Board. The Board Secretary will serve as timekeeper for public comments. Comments made by the public shall be civil in content and tone, affirming the decorum established for a board meeting by the board. Disparaging comments/remarks about board members, employees, students, positions/position titles, and/or district citizens shall not be made. Public comment forms will be available at all regular in writing. All comments written on public comment forms will be disseminated to School Board members for their consideration.
Rothmann said the board was “very interested” in what people had to say during board meetings but insisted board policy be followed by members of the public.
The policy didn’t sit well with all board members, including Lisa Totten, who questioned whether Rothmann had the authority to restrict the public’s speech during a public board meeting and also pointed out the decision was “not board-sanctioned.”
The issue has been scheduled for discussion at Monday’s Public School Board meeting, 6:30 PM at Bliss Education Center, 1900 Polk Street.