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Chicago school board accused of barring public from meeting

September 4, 2013

Journalists and citizens have reported being barred from attending a Chicago, Ill., school board meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. According to WBEZ, an unknown number of people were turned away from the meeting, being told they had to "register in advance" in order to attend.

"We were being told that everyone had to register online in advance," Curtis Lawrence, a journalism professor at Columbia College and veteran reporter, told the news source. "Our students from Columbia College eventually got in, we got press passes. But my concern as a journalist and just as a Chicago citizen is what about the school parent who doesn't have a computer at home and decides they want to come and participate in the process about their kid's education? They can't."

Ronald Jackson, a member of the South Side NAACP, told the news source that he was barred from entering the board room as well, despite registering in advance for the meeting and being a regular attendee. Jackson noted that the school board didn't have the "right" to bar him, or anyone else, from attending an open meeting.

According to the news report, the school district changed to an online registration system for those wishing to speak at the meetings in order to avoid problems that the previous, in-person sign up system caused, including forcing those that wanted to participate to arrive at 6 a.m. in order to get on the list. However, the registration system was broadened to include all attendees, not just those wishing to address the board - a decision that made many people unhappy.

A spokesperson for the board noted that "Any member of the public who wishes to attend the Board meeting can do so without registering in advance given that there is adequate space in Board chambers and its overflow room."

Whether it was poor organization or a miscommunication of the guidelines, however, many reported being turned away entirely from Wednesday's meeting. This situation can be avoided by implementing high-quality agenda management and related solutions to boost the overall efficiency of meeting management. With IQM2's government and school board systems, officials across the nation can enhance the success of their board meetings and minimize risks like that which occurred in Chicago from happening in the future. Ultimately, this will enhance public engagement and benefit transparency and open government efforts as well.