Will it be your voice that is silenced by the Westerly School Committee?

On August 11, 2021

Proposed changes to the by-laws of the Westerly School Committee could have a chilling effect on voices that wish to be heard by their elected representatives.

Chair Bowdy introduced her desired changes to Article 4, Order of Meetings:

  • A plan to limit the first Open Forum section to 30 minutes, up to 10 minutes per speaker, only agenda topics to be addressed, includes reading aloud of letters to the Committee up to 10 minutes per letter, and removes ability for one speaker to yield the rest of their time to another speaker of their choosing.

  • A requirement that all speakers release personally identifiable information about themselves for the record (which would be also broadcast on the Internet) in the form of street address and City/Town along with their name.

It's worth noting that these changes to the by-laws were not sufficiently described in the agenda so as to allow a reasonably prudent member of the public to understand that the subject being discussed. The fact that the business under discussion would limit the public's ability to participate in the decisions that affect them is an egregious offense to the ideal of transparency in government. If you would have spoken against these changes had you known exactly what was being considered, you need to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office.

Let's outline exactly what could happen if these proposed by-law changes are enacted by the Westerly School Committee:

  • Chair Bowdy includes a controversial item on the agenda for discussion.

  • Encourages like-minded thinkers to submit long letters in support of whatever position will have the desired outcome she wants.

  • Decides to read letters from constituents first, before allowing those physically present or attending remotely by Zoom to speak.

  • Letter reading takes up the entire 30 minutes allowed for the first Open Forum.

  • Open Forum closes, agenda item is voted on.

  • Your voice has been silenced until it's all over and done with.

  • Even if you do get to (finally) speak at the literal end of the meeting, you will now be subject to an unwarranted invasion of your privacy by being forced to reveal your address as a litmus test of your "relevance" to the Committee.

These proposed changes to the by-laws of the Westerly School Committee need to be stopped in their tracks. Take Action now by letting the Westerly School Committee know that you oppose these attempts to limit your ability to participate in the decisions of elected officials that affect you, and that you will RESIST any attempt by the Westerly School Committee to allow others to doxx you based on your opinions.

Email the Westerly School Committee NOW: https://www.westerly.k12.ri.us/Page/70

161 views0 comments