KBS Reference Desk: Remote Participation in Board Meetings

Q:        One of our board members is currently under quarantine due to his spouse testing positive for COVID-19. Our board meeting is next week, and he would like to participate in the meeting. Can he call in and be put on speakerphone?

 A:        No. Telephone participation at a public meeting is not permitted under the TOMA; however, the Texas Government Code does allow for an absent board member to participate by videoconference, subject to certain technical requirements.

The Texas Government Code, Chapter 551 (referred to as the Texas Open Meetings Act, or TOMA) authorizes a meeting by telephone conference call only in situations where “an emergency or public necessity exists… and convening at one location of a quorum of the board is difficult or impossible.” Thus, holding any portion of a meeting using telephone (i.e., placing one or more board members on speaker or conference) is reserved only for emergency situations when a quorum of the board cannot physically gather (hurricanes, “Snowvid,” etc.).

In contrast, when a quorum is able to convene in one location but a trustee, unable to attend, desires to participate remotely, videoconference is the only option envisioned by the Government Code. The videoconference exception would enable a trustee who might need to be absent for personal reasons, such as travel, illness, or quarantine (as the current question addresses), to log into the meeting via videoconferencing platform (e.g., Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, or even FaceTime) and participate to the same extent as those in attendance. Of critical importance is that the video stream must remain live at all times, with audio and visual accessibility to the community.

In sum, any videoconference participation must comply with the following requirements:

  • the video and audio feed of the trustee’s participation is broadcast live at the meeting;
  • the member participating by videoconference is counted as present;
  • both locations (where the quorum is present and where the absent member is located) have two-way communication during the entire meeting;
  • the face of each participant in the videoconference call is clearly visible and his/her voice clearly audible (this applies to both the absent trustee and all physically present board members);
  • members of the public in attendance at open session are able to clearly see and hear the absent member participating by videoconference; and
  • the videoconference call complies with the Department of Information Resources’ specific technological requirements regarding the quality of audio/video signals during video calls. [1 TAC 209.10-.11]

Importantly, any loss in connection will result in the trustee being counted as “absent” for that portion of the meeting. As such, maintaining live video and audio feed of all participants on the call during the entirety of the meeting is critical. It is recommended that your district perform a test of the equipment and audio/visual capabilities prior to your meeting.

With regard to closed session, the trustee may continue to participate via live feed; however, the stream and audio must remain visible only to those participating in the closed session.

Lastly, your meeting notice does not need to contain any particular language regarding the possibility of remote participation by one or more board members. It need only state the location of the quorum of the Board (as normal) and meet all other notice requirements under the Texas Open Meetings Act. This means that a last minute decision to “feed” a board member into the meeting via video can be made so long as the above requirements are met.

Contact your local school district attorney should you have additional questions regarding remote participation by trustees at school board meetings.

Related Posts

Recent Articles

KBS Reference Desk: Interstate Travel Liability and Travel Forms Best Practices
January 21, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Updated Stay at Home Periods
January 14, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: On Call Employees Over Holidays
December 17, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Holiday Decorations
December 10, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Removal of Library Books
December 3, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Attendance Waivers
November 19, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: HB 103 Texas Active Shooter Alert
November 12, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Remote Learning and ADA-Funding
November 5, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: CBD Oil
October 29, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Temporary Custodians of Record – TPIA
October 22, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Dyslexia Handbook Update
October 15, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Peace Officer Legislation
October 8, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: HB 1525 PTO Donations
October 1, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: State Certifications Update – SB 13 & SB 19
September 24, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Accelerated and Supplemental Instruction HB 4545
September 17, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Active Threat Excercises
September 10, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: HB 1927 Firearms
September 3, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Waiving Minimum Attendance Requirements for Seriously Ill Students
August 20, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Inquiring About Vaccine Status
August 13, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Temporary Suspension of TPIA due to Catastrophe
August 6, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Standard for Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect
July 30, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Bullying Policies and Reporting SB 2050
July 23, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Homeschoolers and UIL
July 16, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: TOMA Suspension Extension
July 9, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Revision to Resignation without Penalty Deadline
July 2, 2021