School Board member speaking out
Can a School Board member speak about a specific individual without them being present at a public meeting in regard to a position and adding something negative about that person?
OPI does not advise either board members or members of the public about board matters. Boards of trustees in Montana are independent boards comprised of elected officials. As such, boards have a great deal of authority and autonomy over their actions. If a member of the public takes exception with a trustee's behavior, the matter should be brought to the attention of the board. The answer to your specific question depends on a number of different factors. For example, was the issue on the board's agenda? If it was, then the person had notice of the issue and the board was free to discuss it. As a general rule, a person's name is not inherently private and names may be mentioned at a board meeting. The negative nature of the comments may, of course, be inappropriate depending on the nature of the issue. Generally, it is prudent for board members to (1) reserve comment on any topic unless it is properly noticed on the agenda and (2) refrain from making any disparaging remarks about a person unless first advising the chairman that it may be appropriate to go into executive session and see if the person wants to waive his or her right of privacy.
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