School Board wrong to curtail public input

A big “Thank You” to the Editorial Board of The News & Advance for the July 26 editorial speaking out against the proposal to limit public input at Lynchburg School Board meetings.

Since the School Board has already decided that public comment is allowed at only one meeting per month, and since the School Board has decreed that an individual is allowed only three minutes to present his/her views, to make any further restrictions on public input would be absurd.

Clearly, this is an effort on the part of some board members to control what issues are put on the board’s agenda. (If you listen carefully to the recording of the most recent board meeting, you can actually hear a member of the board refer to “maintaining control of our agenda.”)

Supposedly, the School Board exists to help the school administration determine policies and actions that will improve the educational experience for the children of Lynchburg. And supposedly, the board would be a reflection of the concerns of parents and friends within our community.

There is a “back story” here. For the past several years, members of the community have been asking for a discussion of the “policy” of not allowing persons to be volunteers in the schools if they have been incarcerated. It doesn’t matter the offense, or how long ago it occurred; it doesn’t matter whether they have had their rights restored and are able to vote, to serve on a jury, to run for office. The current restrictive policy means that they are locked into what must have been the lowest point in their lives.

For six months, I have attended the public sessions, and heard the stories of parents and friends who want the chance to volunteer their time and their talents in our schools. Some persons have been asking for this opportunity for years, with no response.

Virginia Organizing learned through a Freedom of Information request that from April 26, 2018, to February 26, at least 34 individuals applied to participate in their kid’s educational experience, and were turned down with no explanation, just a form letter. The “inconvenient truth” is that at least 30 of the 34 rejection letters came to people of color.

More than half of the students in Lynchburg schools are African American. They deserve to see people who look like themselves in the hallways and on field trips. And what a gift it would be to the upcoming generations if, as “white” kids, they saw people of color in responsible positions in the classrooms!

It seems the proposed limitation of public input is designed specifically to silence the voices of those who care about this issue. About a dozen different people have used their limited time over the past six months to address this issue.

Has the School Board been listening?

SOLVEIG KJESETH

Lynchburg

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