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With tensions flaring at school board meetings, a Kentucky bill would ensure public comment stays on the agenda

Masks Parents
A speaker describes the Fayette County School Board as "oppressors" during a public comment session focusing on the district's mask mandate

Kentucky school boards would be required to hold public comment periods at their meetings under a bill given initial approval in committee Thursday.

With issues surrounding mask mandates to the teaching of race stirring up passionate and sometimes confrontational debate, school board meetings have gone from mostly low-key affairs to tense standoffs over culture war flashpoints.

House Bill 121 would require Kentucky school boards to allow at least 15 minutes for public comment at regular meetings. Rob Matthew, a former JCPS parent, said he's all for public comment, but the atmosphere at some meetings has grown hostile.

"I myself was almost shouted down at a meeting last summer in Oldham County where I grew up and graduated. In Jefferson County, we had a man arrested for allegedly threatening our superintendent with a gun."
Rob Matthew, former JCPS parent

But bill sponsor Regina Huff, a Republican from Williamsburg, said she was contacted by a constituent unable to address her local school board despite gathering 200 signatures regarding the district's mask mandate. She said the bill shouldn't be viewed as an endorsement of inappropriate behavior.

"No one is expecting a board to sit and listen to someone that is being berating, rude, crude, or threatening. But I think that we need to make sure that our public school systems have public input."
Kentucky Rep. Regina Huff (R-Williamsburg)

Huff's argument easily won over the Senate Education Committee, with 10 yes votes and one pass.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.