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February 22, 2023

School board policy requiring speakers at board meetings to disclose their name and address challenged

A school board's policy requires speakers at board meetings to provide their names and addresses.  Petitioner in this Education Law §310 appeal to the Commissioner of Education sought to avoid giving her last name or street address in order to speak at a school board meeting. Petitioner asked the Commissioner of Education to removal from the school board president for enforcing this policy, which Petitioner alleged violated the board’s Ethics Code.  Petitioner also contended that the Commissioner should invalidate the board’s policy that speakers be required to give their name and address before speaking because it allegedly violated New York State's Open Meetings Law.

The Commissioner dismissed Petitioner's application on number of procedural grounds, including lack of jurisdiction, noting Public Officers Law §107 vests consideration of alleged violations of the Open Meetings Law in the Supreme Court of the State of New York. 

The Commissioner's decision cites Comm on Open Govt OML-AO-5607 (2019) and Comm on Open Govt OML-AO-2717 (1997), advisory opinions issued by Committee staff*, which posit that while the public entity may request an individual to provide his name and address, "a person may not be required [sic] to do so in order to attend, speak or otherwise participate relative to a meeting of a public body".

As the school board indicated that after receipt of the instant appeal it “voted against suspending its policy to conform to ... these opinions" issued by Committee staff, the Commissioner said that she would transmit her decision in this matter "to the Committee on Open Government for appropriate action."

* The Committee's staff prepares written advisory opinions in response to particular sets of facts and circumstances.

Click HERE to access the Commissioner's decision posted on the Internet.

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