San Diego Unified approves public comment policy to curb hate speech

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SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Unified Board of Education on Tuesday approved its intention to implement a new set of rules for public comment intended to curb hate speech.

The move to adopt the Code of Civil Discourse comes in response to a rise in unruly behavior at public meetings in an effort to foster “honest, open, and respectful dialogue,” according to San Diego Unified School Board President Richard Barrera. The county’s Board of Supervisors recently approved a similar policy after a speaker directed racist and threatening language at local officials.

“It’s so important for every public agency to model civility and respect at this point in our nation’s history, but school boards need to always remember that the way we conduct ourselves sets a model for our students,” Barrera said in a statement this week.

Steven Dinkin, president of the National Conflict Resolution Center, which wrote the Code of Civil Discourse, said the new rule is about keeping things cordial while not derailing the business of the board.

“They should do it in a way that respects one another and it shouldn’t be done using verbal abuse and personal attacks and threats because that just shuts down the discourse,” Dinkin said. 

It’s a policy that effectively codifies the board’s belief about “respectful and constructive airing of different points of view,” the board agenda shows. It encourages respect for ideas and presented viewpoints and urges that speakers avoid personal attacks that distract from the issues at hand.

So far, the code has been adopted by the cities of Del Mar and Chula Vista, along with the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Dinkin hopes others both locally and nationally will follow suit.

San Diego Unified will take the issue up at its next governance meeting.

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