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If you want to press a point at a school board meeting, it seems like there’s no one better than a kid to do it. You’ve probably seen it. I sure have: A cherubic child steps up to the microphone, straining to reach it, and talks about how counselors or going to a magnet school has helped them.
But is it OK for kids to speak up at a public meeting if their parents haven’t OK’d it? That is the question that the San Diego Unified school board is now asking. And it’s a thorny question, one that the school district attorney says ties into the First Amendment and meeting laws allowing the public to speak up. Right now kids can sign up to speak like anyone else, with or without parent permission.
Board member Shelia Jackson fears that kids can be manipulated by adults, including school staff, to score political points. “I don’t think you want somebody giving your child a script to go before the board,” said Jackson, who believes parents should have to give their permission before kids speak.
Parents already have to sign off for kids to be photographed or quoted by name by reporters, something that I deal with all the time. Right now I make an exception for kids who speak at board meetings, since they’re already speaking publicly and giving their name. But Deputy Superintendent Nellie Meyer pointed out that the board meetings are televised, which could put them under the same media rules.
But as any parent (or kid) knows, there are also times when children and their parents disagree. Letting parents decide could also muzzle kids who hold opposing views.
Board President Richard Barrera said that two years ago when teens protested having rifle ranges on campus, they organized themselves.
“Do those kids need permission to get up and speak?” Barrera asked. “I’m not sure how I feel about that.”
This morning, the school board asked the San Diego Unified attorney to look into the law about kids speaking at public meetings. Should kids be able to speak up publicly, even if they parents don’t approve? Is there a magic age when kids should be free to speak? Please weigh in here on the blog.