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UPDATE: School Board Tables Controversial Policy Proposals

Board member Sandy Gehrke says proposed board policy changes would infringe on the first amendment rights and "result in the gagging of its board members."

UPDATE: School Board Tables Controversial Policy Proposals UPDATE: School Board Tables Controversial Policy Proposals UPDATE: School Board Tables Controversial Policy Proposals UPDATE: School Board Tables Controversial Policy Proposals UPDATE: School Board Tables Controversial Policy Proposals

UPDATE (10:20 p.m., Oct. 9, 2012): The Hudson School District Board of Education voted to approve a motion to table multiple policy revision recommendations that drew criticism from board member Sandy Gehrke. The recommendations will be referred to an ad hoc board committee for further study.

Sandy Gehrke made the motion and Dan Tjornehoj seconded. It passed 6-1 with Mark Kaisersatt dissenting.

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UPDATE (7:20 p.m., Oct. 9, 2012): Seven PDFs have been added to this post that show the policy changes that are expected to be proposed by attorney Mick Waldspurger later during tonight's school board meeting.

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ORIGINAL POST (3:43 p.m., Oct. 9, 2012): Hudson School District Board of Education member Sandy Gehrke issued a press release Tuesday afternoon speaking out about proposed changes to board and district policies on the agenda for tonight's board meeting.

In her release, Gehrke says some of the policy changes would "result in the gagging of its board members," "forbid board members from expressing any disagreement with decisions of a board majority on any issue" and "threaten any dissident board member with removal."

Gehrke continues to call the proposed policy changes an infringment on First Amendment rights.

Board President Tom Holland sent a statement to Patch later on Tuesday afternoon saying that the policy changes will be presented tonight and that the board would hear public input on them before making its decision. "Any further comment would be premature until the board considers the policy revisions at the meeting," according to Holland's statement. 

The following policy and procedure revisions are in the "topics for action" portion of the agenda for tonight's Board of Education meeting:

  • Policy 1125: Public Suggestions and Complaints (revision)
  • Policy 1230: Loitering or Causing Disturbance (revision) 
  • Procedure 1310.1: Complaints: School Personnel (revision) 
  • Policy 2300: Board-Staff Communications (revision)
  • Policy 7600: School Board Meetings (revision) 
  • Policy 7601: Board Use of Electronic Mail (revision) 
  • Policy 7800: School Board Expectations and Ethics (revision)

Attorney Mick Waldspurger, the same attorney who presided over an investigation into improper action taken by Gehrke, will present the proposed policy changes to the board. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at River Crest Elementary School.

The following is Gehrke's press release in its entirety:

The Hudson School Board is gagging its members. Late last week, the Hudson School District proposed sweeping revisions to school district policy that will result in the gagging of its board members. The policies prohibit school board members from hearing citizen concerns about the schools. They require board members to report all private communications from citizens to the Superintendent. They forbid board members from expressing any disagreement with decisions of a board majority on any issue. And they threaten any dissident board member with removal from the school board.  

One policy instructs the Superintendent to refuse to respond to questions or requests for information from board members the Superintendent deems “unduly burdensome” or “inappropriate.”  There is no right of appeal. 

The proposed new policies were distributed for the first time late on Friday, October 5, 2012. Some were distributed as late as yesterday, October 8 at 11:00 am. They are on the agenda for adoption at tonight’s school board meeting without adequate time for public comment, explanation, or discussion by the board. 

The proposed policies infringe on my First Amendment rights, the rights of my constituents, and most importantly, my obligation as an elected official to make informed decisions about the governance of the Hudson School District. These policies have no purpose but to prohibit criticism of the Superintendent and the school administration. They limit the information that Board members can receive about school district operations. And they make any private communications from parents or teachers to school board members impossible. 

At tonight’s meeting I will move to delay consideration of these policy revisions. They are too important to adopt without thorough consideration. If a majority of the board votes to proceed, I will vote no. And I will continue to speak my conscience as a duly elected member of the Board of Education on matters of vital public concern. 

The following is Holland's statement in its entirety:

At the July 10, 2012 meeting, the Board of Education asked the District’s attorney to recommend revisions to Board policies as a result of findings of an investigation into a school board member’s conduct. Attorney Mick Waldspurger will review his recommendations at the Board meeting this evening. Members of the public will have an opportunity to respond before the Board takes any action. Any further comment would be premature until the Board considers the policy revisions at the meeting.

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