DCPS school board chair tells members ‘not to speak through the media'

A Duval County school board member is pushing back against a call for his fellow elected officials to stop criticizing each other in the media.

Scott Shine said it’s a violation of board members’ First Amendment rights and voters’ rights to know what elected officials are saying to each other.

Shine forwarded Action News Jax reporter Jenna Bourne an email from chairman Ashley Smith Juarez, urging the board members “not to speak through the media” and reminding them of the policy.

"I think it's dangerous ground when we start to tell public officials 'don't talk to the public,'" said Shine.

READ: Duval County School Board Policy Manual

The school board policy says board members “will not criticize another Board member or the Board in the media.”

It also says, “On certain agreed issues, the Board speaks to the media through the Board Chairman.”

Juarez’s email comes in the wake of the controversy over board member Connie Hall’s text messages about Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. One of them said, “Special ed in action.”

Action News Jax Law and Safety Expert Dale Carson said the policy is unconstitutional.

“I think it runs afoul of the First Amendment protections. I think that elected officials and appointed officials have a duty to disclose information about the process,” said Carson.

Shine emailed the superintendent about wanting to change the policy Friday.

“They have a duty and obligation to speak to the public and some of the things that need to be told may not be comfortable things to talk about,” said Shine.

Action News Jax called and emailed Juarez for her side of the story and heard back Friday afternoon. Juarez tells Action News Jax she is open to a discussion about changing the policy, but it’s been a longstanding policy of the board. She said the school district’s legal department was there for the most recent review of the policy and didn’t raise any questions.