It’s a curious phenomenon with which Herald staff and public officials are all too familiar. Public meetings are held regularly by entities including elected and appointed commissions, councils and boards. Attendance is typically woefully poor, consisting of members of the board or commission, staff, those on the agenda to present on some issue or another, and often a representative of the press. Although the meetings are public, the general public is rarely present.
The only exception to this is when there is some type of controversial issue or conflict and people show up to speak on one side or another, often loudly and angrily.
Public officials frequently find themselves in no-win situations, in which it seems that no matter what they do, some aspect of the community is going to complain or feel wronged. It’s a thankless position to be in and it’s a wonder that anyone is willing to serve on boards or run for elected office. It’s also no wonder that public officials seem to so often be on the defensive when people are very free with their criticism but far less free with any compliments or recognition.
This is not to say the public should withhold criticism when it is warranted. There are absolutely times when officials need to be questioned and challenged on their decisions, lack of transparency and more. However, part of living in a democracy such as ours is the ability to participate in not only voting, and criticizing when necessary, but learning about the ins and outs of public decision-making and showing up to have regular conversations on the direction of the community.
It especially means sharing individual thoughts and concerns when that input is specifically solicited.
Uinta County School District No. 1 is currently soliciting such input.
After enacting policy CKA, the School Safety and Security Policy, last school year, the policy was challenged in a court of law by individuals who felt the rulemaking process was not followed. The lawsuit maintained there had not been the required notification period with a finalized draft of the policy available for the public to examine and submit comments, among other claims. A judge agreed and declared the policy null and void.
Now the school district is making a second attempt at enacting rule CKA, which would allow for approved district employees to carry concealed firearms in or on district property. According to the Wyoming Administrative Procedures Act, the district is required to have a period open for public comments. From now until Jan. 7, the public is able to review the proposed rule and all of the accompanying documents either online at uinta1.com or by request at the central office at 537 10th St. Comments can be submitted online at the district website, through a link posted on the district’s Facebook page, in writing either hand delivered or mailed to the central office or via email to [email protected]
The district conducted a survey last school year when adopting CKA and, according to a Facebook post of the results, only 161 public responses and 259 staff responses were submitted. In a community with a total student enrollment of between 2500-3000 and more than 500 employees, and in which even those without children pay taxes to contribute to public schools and in which the educational system impacts everyone, receiving about 400 responses to a survey on such a controversial and important issue demonstrates a definite lack of involvement.
UCSD No. 1 is also planning not one, but two, community forums completely dedicated to this issue. The first is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, and the second for a week later on Jan. 22. Both will be held at 6 p.m. in the board meeting room at the administration building at 537 10th St. Again, given the controversial nature of this important issue that impacts every single student and employee in the district, it stands to reason that citizens would make every effort to attend and participate in the rulemaking process.
We at the Herald strongly urge the public to review the proposed rule CKA and its accompanying documents, submit comments and attend one of the public forums. Whether those comments are expressing support for the policy, questioning the approval process or requirements for an employee to carry a concealed firearm, making suggestions to improve the rule, bringing up other security concerns or expressing outright disapproval, the district has asked for the public’s input and it is now the public’s responsibility to share that input.