Freedom of speech and the local school board

Dear Editor:

The Princeton Board of Education has just mandated that its members may not publicly question school board actions and policies, resolving that “board members will serve as ambassadors for their district, emphasizing the positive aspects of the district.”

School board members are not elected to represent the schools. They are elected to provide oversight for the community. How much oversight can be exercised if all communications must pass through the Superintendent?

The document the board voted on at the public meeting also states that information prepared for deliberative purposes will not be shared. If there is any question whether the information is confidential, board members will consult with the superintendent in advance.

The superintendent will serve as the spokesperson for the district with the media, and the board president will serve as the spokesperson for the board with the media.

Although board of education members are elected to represent the whole community, which pays for the schools through property taxes, this resolution passed 7-3. (Read the full story here).

Princeton’s Board of Education must be open and responsive both to its members and to the community. Provisions that in any way restrict free speech and discourse are unacceptable and must be repealed.

Signed,

Mary Clurman and Peter Lindenfeld, Harris Road
Kate Warren, Jefferson Road
Shenwei Zhao, Prospect Place
Charlotte O’Connor, Patton Avenue
Phyllis Teitelbaum and Tony Lunn, Hawthorne Avenue
Adam and Sandra Bierman, Grover Avenue 
Kip Cherry, Dempsey Avenue

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