Updated April 22, 2021 - 9:05 pm
The Clark County School Board ran afoul of open meeting law last summer by not providing adequate time for public comment, according to a finding from the Nevada attorney general’s office acknowledged by the board Thursday.
The issue arose during the period of time that the board met virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic and took comments by email only. But by cutting off email comments hours before the meeting began, the board did not provide a means for real-time public comment, according to the finding from Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office.
“Requiring all comments to be submitted hours prior to the meeting without the ability to submit comments during the meeting does not meet the requirements of the (Open Meeting Law) or (the Governor’s Emergency Directive),” the finding said.
While no corrective action was required, if virtual meetings are needed again, the board must offer a place or electronic means for the public to offer live comment, according to board attorney Mary-Anne Miller, such as monitoring the email address during the meeting, too.
In January, the School Board started allowing residents to leave recorded messages to be played during the public comment period. The board resumed in-person meetings in February and reopened the floor to public comment.
Thursday’s meeting also saw the board discuss its next steps in writing an anti-racism policy, which received overwhelming support from residents sharing their experiences with racism at the district.
Trustees also expressed broad support for the policy, with some concerns that the process thus far had been rushed and that any new policy should include district staff in the crafting process.
The policy is expected to return for further discussion at the May 5 work session with a summary of the public input received, a brief timeline of the district’s 2018 gender identity policy for comparison and, if possible, a facilitated conversation with an outside group like the American Civil Liberties Union.
Robust public comment touched on several other issues, including parents’ frustration that they have been unable to attend their student-athletes’ away games because of the district’s spectator policy. Others raised concerns that the district’s COVID-19 testing for athletes had yielded false positives and resulted in unnecessary sidelining.
A group of commenters took umbrage with an amendment to the district’s policy on textbooks and instructional materials that specifies that any materials must not discriminate “on the ground of race, color, creed/religion, national or ethnic origin, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, marital status or age,” claiming that the wording could encroach on parental rights to opt in to sex ed curriculum. The amendment passed unanimously as part of the board’s consent agenda.
Several commenters also expressed support for a proposed memorandum of agreement with the Nevada System of Higher Education to allow the UNLV School of Medicine to offer free health services to CCSD students. But the item was dropped from the agenda just before the meeting, to the frustration of school representatives who said a similar proposal had been indefinitely delayed in 2019.
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