New law requires school boards to allow public comments. But there will be rules in place.

EVANSVILLEInd. — Public comments will be allowed again during Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. board meetings starting July 1.

That is when a law takes effect requiring all Indiana school boards to allow public comments in meetings. That includes meetings held virtually, something that has become more common during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The law only requires school boards to allow comments on agenda topics, said Julie Slavens, senior counsel for the Indiana School Boards Association.

“You don’t have to allow an open mic or comments on any topic,” she said.

Legislators proposed the law after some school boards in the state ended or restricted public comments to avoid confrontations over heated issues such as curriculums or COVID-19 restrictions, Slavens said.

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The EVSC board will vote on its new public comment policy at its next meeting, at 5:30 pm June 27.

EVSC school board “town halls”

In May 2021, the EVSC board adopted a “town hall” format in lieu of public comments during meetings. For 30 minutes before every regular school board meeting, citizens who signed up in advance could come speak to school board members and Superintendent David Smith.

“That will continue. It’s been nothing but a positive,” said Chris Kiefer, school board president. “We get a lot of input and we can give input back and have a conversation.”

However, he said the school board also will now include a time during meetings for the public to speak about items on the agenda.

“It will happen at the beginning of meetings,” Kiefer said.

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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the bill shortly after it was approved by the Indiana General Assembly in March.

New law

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