One of the most effective ways to let key decision makers at AISD know that you support initiatives that support the LGBTQ+ community is to attend the monthly SHAC meetings and sign in as representing “Informed Parents of Austin.”
It can be a bit confusing and intimidating the first time you attend any new gathering, so here is a quick overview of what to expect when you attend a SHAC meeting.
Know where & when to go: The meetings are the first Wednesday of every month from 6:30pm – 8:00pm in a meeting room at the new AISD Headquarters located at 4000 S. IH-35 Frontage Road, 78704 unless specified otherwise. (See map below)
Someone will be at the main door to provide access and directions to the meeting room on the 2nd floor The full schedule, agenda for the upcoming meeting and minutes from past meeting are all available here. Always check for the latest information here before attending.
When You Arrive: There will be a table with a sign up sheet, agendas as well as the Speaker & Comment cards. At the beginning of each regular meeting of a district advisory body, time will be provided for public comments.
At the time of this post, the SHAC public comment period is typically 10-15 minutes, and speakers are usually allowed 2 minutes each. Speakers may be asked to sit in a designated area until called upon by the presiding officer to speak.
You can read all the Communication Rules here, but here’s the most important part: “Persons wishing to provide public comments will be asked to fill out a speaker card. Persons wishing to speak must acknowledge on the speaker card that they have read these requirements. Persons will be called upon to speak usually in the order speaker cards were received. However, in cases of large numbers of persons wishing to speak, cards may be drawn randomly, at the discretion of the committee coordinator. If persons who have signed up to speak do not have an opportunity to do so because time runs out, they may provide written comments on the card provided. In addition, any person may provide written comments without signing up to speak.”
Where to Sit: The SHAC board members sit at the tables and there is typically a separate seating section for guests.
The Meeting: Here’s a sample agenda to give you an idea of the flow of the meetings and topics discussed. The public comment period is at the the beginning of the meeting and is limited so definitely bring hand outs in case due to time constraints, you only have the opportunity to provide written comments.
Do I HAVE to DO Anything?! As a SHAC meeting guest, you are under no obligation to speak at any time – You can truly just act as a “fly on the wall” while taking in the information discussed.
If you do have something you want to say, but are hesitant to speak in front of the group, you can submit a written statement on one of the comment cards which are located on the table as you enter the room.
Since these written comments are kept with the records of the meeting, (and the “anti” groups are definitely submitting their comments,) even if I don’t have a specific, urgent topic, I encourage you to submit a general statement of support, such as:
My name is _________ and I am one of the 1,500+ members of The Informed Parents of Austin. I would like to thank the SHAC board for continuing to support programs that encourage equality and inclusiveness for LGBTQ+ students and families. I also support your efforts to include age appropriate sex education in the AISD curriculum. I, and the Informed Parents of Austin, are here to support you in any way to ensure these programs are made available to all students in AISD.
Note: The SHAC board is there to attend to a wide variety of subjects pertaining to the health of our students and AISD staff, from Physical Education programs and Lunch Menus to staff insurance plans and school nurse coverage. During any given meeting, there is very little chance that any LGBTQ+ or sex ed topics will be raised, and even if they are, as observing guests we are not allowed to comment on them during the discussion when guests are each allowed two minutes to give a brief statement. We are there to get information, be a counter-presence to the anti-groups and let the SHAC board know that we support their inclusion initiatives.
There are typically several anti-group representatives present at these meetings. I have learned to follow the HRC’s recommendation to not engage with people who are fighting against our goals, but to support the decision makers who support equality for LGBTQ+ students and families.
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