NJASB spokesman clarifies school board rules

In light of the arrest of former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan on Saturday outside Middle Township High School where Gov. Jon Corzine was holding a town meeting, thedirector of communications for the New Jersey School Boards Association on Tuesday responded to a question about free speech and individual school board policies.

Frank Belluscio quoted from a 2004 decision, in whichthe 3rd circuit federal appeals courtruled that a government entity conducting an open forum must permit the distribution of literature by those of varying or opposing viewpoints.

"The onus for ensuring the openness of the public forum is on the government entity that is running the meeting, not on the entity that rents out or allows the use of the facility," said Belluscio.

Reasonable time, place and manner restrictions can be placed on public comment during such forums, he added.

"School boards have policies and/or practices concerning the rental or use of facilities by outside organizations," Belluscio said. "Such policy or practice could allow – or could disallow – the use of facilities by outside organizations.

"However, if the school district permits the rental or use of facilities by one organization with a particular viewpoint, it would have to permit similar rental or use by a group with an opposing point of view," he added. "In such a case, the only obligation on the part of the school board would be to allow the opposing group to rent or use its facilities at a different time or date." NJASB spokesman clarifies school board rules