A&A: Signing In at Public Meetings

Q: Is it legal for a public school board at to require a member of the public to sign in in order to address the board on an agendized item?

A: The California Supreme Court has recognized that “‘[a] school board of a school district constitutes a “legislative body” of a “local agency”‘” under Government Code §§ 54951-54952 of the Brown Act.  “‘Thus [a school board] is subject to the requirements of the Brown Act, and must conduct its meetings in open sessions unless a statutory exception authorizes a closed or executive session.'”  Kavanaugh v. West Sonoma County Union High School Dist., 29 Cal. 4th 911, 924 n.11 (2003) (quoting Fischer v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist., 70 Cal. App. 4th 87, 95 (1999)) (brackets added by Supreme Court).

As you point out, the Brown Act (in section 54953.3) provides members of the public the right to refuse to sign any attendance sheet as a condition of attending a meeting, and that means that the school board cannot require you to provide your name or contact information as a condition of attending a meeting.  Section 54953.3 does not specifically say that this also limits the ability of the board to ask for your contact info as a condition of allowing you to speak at a meeting, but since the right to speak in section 54954.3 does not say that a board can require you to give your name as a condition of speaking, it seems likely that the restriction in section 54953.3 would apply not only to attending a meeting but to speaking at the meeting.