SB 84 Georgia's Local School Board Gag Law
Passed in 2010
SB 84 – The Local Board of Education Gag Law
SB 84 established a “code of ethics” for local board members that limits their authority to address citizen concerns and prevents them from maintaining minority opinion views after the local board votes. Local superintendents, legislators, the governor, and appointed state board of education members do not have to abide by a “code of ethics.”
“29 …Given the specialized nature and unique role of membership on a local board of
30 education, this elected office should be characterized and treated differently from other
31 elected offices where the primary duty is independently to represent constituent views.
32 Local board of education members should abide by a code of conduct and conflict of
33 interest policy modeled for their unique roles and responsibilities. And although there are
34 many measures of the success of a local board of education, one is clearly essential:
35 maintaining accreditation and the opportunities it allows the school system's students."
The appointed local superintendent is now the only person who may serve to record the proceedings of the local board of education meeting:
“ 184 … It shall be the duty of the superintendent
or the board's nominee as secretary to be
185 present at the meetings of the local board, to keep the minutes of its meetings and make a
186 permanent record of them, and to do any other clerical work it may direct the
187 superintendent to do. The superintendent
or the board's nominee shall record cause to be
188 recorded in a book, to be provided for the purpose, all official proceedings of the local
189 board, which shall be a public record open to the inspection of any person interested
190 therein; and all such proceedings, when so recorded, shall be signed by the chairperson and
191 countersigned by the secretary."
This means that the local board of education cannot meet without the local superintendent present. The official records are kept by that local superintendent. The board may not nominate a separate secretary. The superintendent needs to sign on every public record. These policies, taken together, put the appointed superintendent, unaccountable directly to the voters, in charge of the local school system.
On the role of the local superintendent and the local board of education:
197 (a) The fundamental role of a local board of education shall be to establish policy for the
198 local school system with the focus on student achievement. The fundamental role of a
199 local school superintendent shall be to implement the policy established by the local board.
200 It shall not be the role of the local board of education or individual members of such board
201 to micromanage the superintendent in executing his or her duties, but it shall be the duty
202 of the local board to hold the local school superintendent accountable in the performance
203 of his or her duties. Local board of education members should work together with the
204 entire local board of education and shall not have authority as independent elected officials
205 but shall only be authorized to take official action as members of the board as a whole.
206 Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to alter, limit, expand, or enlarge any powers,
207 duties, or responsibilities of local boards of education, local board members, or local school
Have you ever wondered why local boards of education are silent on many issues?
“253 (7) No local board of education member shall disclose or discuss any information which
254 is subject to attorney-client privilege belonging to the local board of education to any
255 person other than other board members, the board attorney, the local school
256 superintendent, or persons designated by the local school superintendent for such
257 purposes unless such privilege has been waived by a majority vote of the whole board.”
The Professional Standards Commission (an appointed commission) has authority over who may serve as a local school superintendent, not the voters.
343 "(b)(1) No person shall be eligible to be appointed or employed as superintendent of
344 schools of any county or independent school system unless such person is of good moral
345 character, has never been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude, and
346 possesses acceptable business or management experience as specified by the Professional
347 Standards Commission or the minimum valid certificate or a letter of eligibility for said
348 certificate required by the Professional Standards Commission.
Local school boards must adopt the model code of ethics from the State Board of Education (an appointed board):
“286 (a) The State Board of Education shall adopt a model code of ethics for members of local
287 boards of education by October 1, 2010. Such model code of ethics shall also include
288 appropriate consequences for violation of a provision or provisions of such code. The State
289 Board of Education may periodically adopt revisions to such model code as it deems
291 (b) Within three months of adoption by the State Board of Education of a model code of
292 ethics pursuant to subsection (a) of this Code section, each local board of education shall
293 adopt a code of ethics that includes, at a minimum, such model code of ethics. Each local
294 board of education shall incorporate into its code of ethics any revisions adopted by the
295 State Board of Education to the model code of ethics pursuant to subsection (a) of this
296 Code section within three months of adoption of such revisions.”
Here are some excerpts from the Georgia code of ethics for local boards of education:
6. Make decisions in accordance with the interests of the school system as a whole and not any particular segment thereof.
7. Express opinions before votes are cast, but after the board vote, abide by and support all majority decisions of the board.
Consider the employment of personnel only after receiving and considering the recommendation of the local superintendent.
Conduct as a Board Member:
4. Take no private action that will compromise the board or school system administration.
5. Participate in all required training programs developed for board members by the board or the State Board of Education.
6. File annually with the local superintendent and with the State Board of Education a written statement certifying that he or she is in compliance with this Code of Ethics.
Conflicts of Interest
1. Announce potential conflicts of interest before board action is taken.
2. Comply with the conflicts of interest policy of the board, all applicable laws and Appendix B of the Standards document.
This means that the local board of education members must sign and agree to this model code of ethics as written and updated by the State Board of Education.
A Code of Ethics with teeth:
Upon a motion supported by a two-thirds (2/3) vote, the board may choose to conduct a hearing concerning a possible violation of this Code of Ethics by a member of the board. The board member accused of violating this Code of Ethics will have thirty (30) days notice prior to a hearing on the matter. The accused board member may bring witnesses on his or her behalf to the hearing, and the board may elect to call witnesses to inquire into the matter. If found by a vote of two-thirds of all the members of the board that the accused board member has violated this Code of Ethics, the board shall determine an appropriate sanction. A board member subject to sanction may, within thirty (30) days of such sanction vote, appeal such decision to the State Board of Education in accordance with the rules and regulations of the State Board of Education. A record of the decision of the board to sanction a board member for a violation of this Code of Ethics shall be placed in the permanent minutes of the board.
Imagine if they had this policy in our U.S. Congress? If so, representatives would not be able to speak out about current laws they did not vote for.