In February, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill (HB) 51, which allowed public bodies, including boards of education, to meet remotely, but only until June 30, 2022.

The expiration of HB 51’s authorizing language means that the original open meetings provisions in Ohio Revised Code (RC) 121.22 are again in effect. The law requires board members to be present “in person” at a meeting to vote at the meeting and for purposes of determining whether a quorum is present.

Some boards of education have questioned whether the permanent law continues to permit an individual board member to participate in board meetings electronically, even in the absence of HB 51’s authorizing language. Perhaps a board member needs to work late or is recuperating from an illness or inclement weather prevents travel. Although the board is again prohibited from conducting the entire meeting virtually, the board could allow an individual board member to “participate” via conference call or videoconference, so long as there is a quorum present in person at the meeting. Such participation would be limited to listening to and participating in the board’s discussions. A board member who participates via electronic means may not be counted for quorum purposes, nor may the board member vote.

With all the changes that have occurred over the past few years, now is a good time to review your board’s policies on school board meetings. For OSBA policy subscribers, those policies include:

  • Policy BD, School Board Meetings. OSBA’s sample policy includes permissive language that authorizes an individual board member’s remote participation and clarifies that a board member who participates electronically may not vote at the meeting and will not be counted for purposes of determining whether a quorum is present. If your board suspended or amended this policy, it should consider reviving this language, especially if the board is interested in occasionally allowing individual board members to participate electronically.
  • Policy BDDA, Notification of Meetings. This policy outlines the notification requirements that boards must follow when notifying the board, media and public of its meetings. The board should review this policy and remove any references to HB 51 or its requirements that the board provide at least 24 hours advanced notice of virtual meetings to the public.
  • Policy BDDF, Voting Method. OSBA’s sample policy requires board members to be physically present at the meeting to vote. Considering HB 51, many boards of education suspended this policy language. If your motion to suspend did not include the June 30, 2022, expiration date, the board should consider taking action to reintroduce this language into policy BDDF.
  • Policy BDDH (also KD), Public Participation at Board Meetings. Boards of education should carefully review their public participation policies to ensure they align with their current public participation practices and procedures for in-person board meetings.

If you have questions about holding or attending board meetings under the current law, please reach out to OSBA’s division of legal services at (614) OSBA-LAW. If you are an OSBA policy subscriber and have questions about updating your policies to reflect the status of the law, please reach out to OSBA’s policy consultants at (614) 540-4000.

Posted by Sara C. Clark on 7/8/2022