The next meeting of the Carmel Clay School Board will be open to an in-person audience after two months of virtual-only attendance for the community.
Board president Layla Spanenburg announced the change at the end of Monday's meeting and said the Dec. 13 meeting will be at Clay Middle School, 5150 E 126th Street in Carmel.
The board typically meets at the district's educational services center, but the change in venue is to accommodate a larger crowd and attendees should expect metal detectors, said district spokesperson Emily Bauer. It is the board's only meeting next month.
Bauer said public comment is not currently on the agenda for the December meeting. Public comment at Carmel school board meetings has been temporarily suspended since August.
For months, public comment periods and audience outbursts at school board meetings have been in the spotlight in Carmel, as well as across the country as speakers have criticized topics like diversity, equity and inclusion, books available to students and mask mandates. Audience members have yelled comments, carried signs and cheered for speakers they agree with.
At Carmel's July meeting, speakers read from books they deemed inappropriate including books with transgender characters and books that sexually explicit scenes. Also at that meeting, a man was arrested after a gun fell from his pocket. After that, Carmel added metal detectors to its school board meetings and suspended public comment.
At the September meeting, the board was slated to, and did approved, edits to its public comment policy and added a new policy on civility and decorum. However, the board recessed just 10 minutes into the meeting after an audience member stood up and started reading a statement about the new public comment policy that led to yelling and boos from the crowd. That meeting led Carmel to move to virtual-only attendance for the audience.
State law doesn't require public comment at school board meetings, and policies on how comment sessions work are up to individual boards. The state's public health emergency allows boards to meet virtually as long as there is a way for the public to view the meeting in real time. In a recent opinion, Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt reminded boards that they should be prepared to make sure meetings are orderly once they return to in-person.
Elsewhere in Hamilton County, the Noblesville School Board also met virtually for its September and October meetings, returning to an in-person audience this month. Noblesville cited increasing COVID-19 cases as well as previous meetings where attendees did not wear masks as the reasons.
In a recent opinion, Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt said they should be prepared to make sure meetings are orderly once they return to in-person.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Carmel Clay Schools: Board to return to in-person meetings next month