Virginia Beach School Board debates revisions to public comment sessions

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Public comment policies will stay the same during Virginia Beach School Board meetings — for now.

After nearly two hours of debate and 22 speakers who signed up to address the school board, the 17 public comment revisions were sent back to committee for further changes.

Changes that would affect, and in some cases limit, public comment along with prohibiting pre-meeting rallies were heated topics of discussion Tuesday and met with opposition from many members of the community. One proposed revision would give speakers three minutes to talk instead of four.

Parents and community members pleaded their case to be heard in person and over the phone, citing the First Amendment.

“When you shut parents out, when you silence parents and you take away our parental rights and put politics and beliefs on our children, you’re not acting in the best interest of the children,” said one speaker to the school board.

After weeks of tense and heated meetings over masking, a transgender student nondiscrimination policy and possibly restricting public comment sessions, the restrictions angered many parents who attended the board meeting.

“It is your duty to listen. You all are public servants and have a responsibility to hear concerns especially when it involves our children,” said another speaker.

The school board voted 10-1 to send the revisions back for more changes.

The board on Tuesday also decided to require COVID-19 vaccines for student-athletes in high school. Those who aren’t fully vaccinated will need to be tested for COVID-19 weekly.

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