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Irvine Unified changes school board public comment policy following ACLU letter

Irvine Unified changed its public comment policy for school board meetings last week after receiving a letter from the ACLU of Southern California accusing the school board of violating the First Amendment right to free speech, the Daily Pilot reported.

The letter called out the district for allegedly blocking an email from a person after she issued a complaint about discrimination against children with disabilities, according to the Daily Pilot. When the person tried to bring up the issue at board meetings in April and May, she was reprimanded for violating the board’s public comment policy, which didn’t allow people to complain about district employees at board meetings. The policy also didn’t allow comments that “reflect adversely upon the racial, religious, economic or political views, character or motives of any person on the staff and board,” according to the ACLU, and required people who address the board to provide their name and address.

Board President Ira Glasky disagreed with the ACLU’s allegation that the policy prevented people from speaking to the board.

The new policy, which the board approved last Tuesday, no longer requires people to sign in or provide their names and information in order to attend the meeting. ACLU staff attorney Zoe McKinney told the Daily Pilot that the new policy also presents an issue since it only pertains to attending a meeting, not speaking at a meeting.

McKinney was also concerned that the new policy allows the board president to decide whether a topic is appropriate for a meeting, according to the Daily Pilot.