Free Speech Overreach?

Senate bill 173 concerns me, please let me explain why:

Five years ago, my husband and I attended a public hearing concerning a new set of public school standards. The parents who attended each took turns raising their hands to have a turn posing questions and concerns regarding the standards. To our surprise, each time a parent would ask a question or state a concern the state representative leading the meeting would hold up their hands and say things like: “Okay just calm down” or “You guys are out of control”. We were confused by this state representative’s odd response to our cordial conduct.

The next morning the local newspaper reported that the meeting, and those who attended, were out of control! The reporter took his story from the reactions of the state representative and misrepresented the parents in his article. 

The whole experience was frustrating to the parents. We thought we were attending a meeting where we would have our voices heard. But, in fact, we were manipulated by an over-reacting representative from the state. I can’t imagine how this meeting would have turned out if the broad language in SB 173 was enforced. This is a problem that I see with the language of the bill – there is the lack of definition for disorderly conduct which leaves the door wide open for beaurocratic interpretation. 

I have been on both sides of these kinds of meetings. As a parent activist and now as an elected official. Being on the State School Board, I know how important it is to be able to conduct business in an official meeting. Having said that, I am also concerned that this bill adds to the list of ‘official meetings’. We need to be careful to not accidentally create new laws that might be used to silence the people.