As school boards reorganize for the new year, it’s a good time to review meeting policies and procedures. Below are a few commonly misconstrued concepts related to Robert’s Rules of Order. The list is not meant to be all-inclusive, but highlights key points useful to new and experienced board members alike.
- Robert’s Rules of Order is designed to provide structure, guidance, and decorum while facilitating the orderly operation of a meeting. Robert’s was not designed to be used as a weapon against any particular member, group of members or absentee members of a governing body.
- A school board must officially name Robert’s Rules of Order in its by-laws or policies for it to be the binding procedural authority for its meetings. Without doing so, Robert’s Rules of Order is merely advisory. A school board’s policy should also set forth the specific edition of Robert’s Rules it intends to follow. The most recent edition is “Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, Eleventh Edition.” A best practice would be to use the language “most recent edition” so that a board does not need to change its by-laws whenever a new edition comes out.
- Robert’s Rules of Order is not based in statute or regulation and is not required to be followed unless specifically set forth in the district’s by-laws or policies. At no time can Robert’s Rules be substituted for a law or statute. (e.g. N.J.S.A. 18A:1-1, et. seq., Open Public Meeting Act and Open Public Records Act laws must always be followed first).
- Robert’s Rules of Order is only to be used to fill gaps where laws, regulations, local by-laws and policies do not speak to a topic.
- According to Robert’s Rules of Order, if the board president intends to advocate for or against a motion, he or she should cede the chair to the next member in line of succession until action has been taken on the motion. Otherwise, the board president should remain neutral during the meeting.
- Once a motion has been seconded, it belongs to the governing body and no longer the person who made the motion. As such, only the governing body can act on the motion. After a motion is seconded, members cannot simply withdraw their motion because they changed their mind. Moreover, board members cannot speak against their own motion although they are allowed to vote against it.
- During any official speech or debate, members should direct all communication to the board president and should not speak directly to other members of the board.
For more information, board members may seek to discuss this matter with their board attorney or call the NJSBA Legal and Labor Relations Department at (609) 278-5254.