Editorial: Free speech exists at meetings of the Ely school board as well

We would advise the Ely school board to tread lightly on revisions to its public forum rules. What we have seen so far is concerning, limiting and pushes the limits of First Amendment rights.
Nobody should have to worry about criminal charges or a police citation when addressing their concerns to their elected officials. Yet, that is exactly what could happen if the school board adopts this ill advised policy.
Let’s look at what our Congressman, Pete Stauber had to say just recently on this issue.
Amid a crazy push by the National School Board Association which it has since retracted, to label parents who speak out as “domestic terrorists,” Stauber rightly responded. He introduced a resolution aimed at protecting the rights of those who speak at school board meetings.
“Parents have a constitutionally-protected right to speak at school board meetings,” said Stauber. “This right is more important than ever with schools implementing critical race theory along with harmful mask and vaccine mandates. Parental rights matter, and Congress must demonstrate support for their First Amendment right to speak up.”
The school district already has rules in place for its public forum. Nothing that occurred recently rises to the level of criminal behavior, not even close.
Sure the board could do away with its public forum but just because you don’t like what you’re hearing isn’t a reason to stifle or silence criticism.
Certainly parents and taxpayers have a right to address concerns with their elected officials. If we’ve gotten to a point where this is no longer the case, the district needs to back up the bus and pull up a copy of the First Amendment.
These are trying times for the district. An unpopular mask mandate has created the majority of the strife. When neighboring districts, including students in Tower and Babbitt, don’t require masks, it makes Ely’s policies appear to be overbearing and unnecessary.
Enrollment has plummeted, there was a fiasco with the cancellation of the 9/11 memorial event and concerns raised about curriculum and required assignments in the high schools. These are all legitimate issues that the board has to answer to.
Silencing critics, taking measures to prevent them to speak and threatening punitive action against those who do speak out is not only wrong, but chilling.
The board needs to step back, look at this policy and decided if the changes are even needed. If they fail to do so, they’re simply digging a deeper hole and further diminishing public confidence.