Shawnee Mission parents push back against change to public comment policy at board meetings

Education

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Some parents in the Shawnee Mission School District say a new policy could stifle their voices, and they’re hoping an online petition can help them keep it.

Shawnee Mission board members will vote July 26 on whether to stop streaming public comments on YouTube and whether to keep those comments limited to 30 minutes. It’s a strategy the district started during the pandemic.

Victoria Savich has attended school board meetings for 11 years. She said it’s a forum for parents to have their voices heard.

“That is the one part of the school meeting that parents, teachers, even students look forward to hearing from,” she said.

But with the proposed policy, their voices may only reach those who attend the meeting.

Savich said a petition that her friend, a fellow Shawnee Mission parent, started on change.org will show the district many parents don’t want things to change.

“Transparency and being inclusive, we get rid of those, not livestreaming and only 30 minutes, you get rid of both of those issues,” Savich said.

The public comment livestreaming ban is in response to YouTube flagging the district for misinformation broadcasted during a meeting last spring.

Former Shawnee Mission West student Greg Stephan said he agrees the comments should continue to be streamed.

“You do have to deal with misinformation sometimes,” he said. “But generally people should be smart to handle it. There should be more information than not enough.”

In a statement to FOX4, the Shawnee Mission school board said: “The Shawnee Mission Board of Education values input from the public and has a number of means of receiving thoughts from the public including emails, virtual tools, Mail and comments during regularly scheduled board meetings.”

Savich said that’s not enough. She wants other parents to support the petition to give parents all the time they need to voice their concerns and stream the forum for other busy parents who can’t attend the meeting.

“Your one opinion might be influencing 100 people,” she said. “You just never know.”

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