During the 2012-2013 school year, some high school students in Broward County started looking into public access to public meetings as part of a class project — “Democracy in Action” — that almost became state law.
“This particular group of students wanted to have input on some of the changes that were happening at the school level and also at the district level,” says Adam Cohen, who taught social studies at South Broward High School at the time. “They thought there was a little too much testing,” he says, and there were changes they wanted to make in the school schedule.
“But the school board meetings were held at a time they were not able to be there,” Cohen says. So the students made a proposal to state lawmakers that eventually became SB 134. The bill would have required every district in the state to hold at least one evening meeting every three months.
The bill passed the Senate, but died in the Florida House. And in Broward County, at least, school board meetings still start at 10 a.m.
“I understand that school board members have other responsibilities and many of them do other jobs, but this is a job that they chose to do,” Cohen says. “They need to hear from their constituents.
Cohen says he’s not convinced that the school board has done enough to invite real feedback.
“It’s the idea of, if you’re not here complaining, everything must be fine. It may not be the case — it’s just those people can’t be there, because of their obligations,” Cohen says.
If any lawmakers want to dust the 2013 bill off and bring it up again — the Legislature is still in session.