Is it appropriate for members of the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board to express their opinions on education matters when they are at the grocery store, the dentist’s office or the farmers’ market?

Some members of the board think that it is wrong that individual board members should be so bold as to have, hold or express opinions. This is absurd.

Serving on the HUUSD Board is a difficult enough task as it is without trying to suggest that some draconian stifling of people’s opinion is called for. The HUUSD Board spent time discussing this at its retreat last week, but the issue has come up previously over whether board members should express opinions in local newspapers and on social media.

Let’s break this down.

Board members are elected by the citizenry of their individual towns. It’s important for voters to be able to understand their positions and opinions so informed votes can be cast.

And, if a Fayston voter happens to read or hear the opinion of a Waitsfield board member and takes that opinion and issue to his or her own representative, that’s a good thing, right? Talking about issues across our district helps inform all of us.

Not everyone can attend the HUUSD Board meetings. What better way to find out how a board member feels than by taking advantage of our small community and asking them when we run into them?

What is fundamentally troubling about any suggestion that board members should march and speak in lockstep is that it would deny them their First Amendment right to free speech.

Serving on a school board or select board or any board doesn’t obviate one’s right to speak freely, whether sitting around the board table, answering questions from constituents at the grocery store and while waiting in line at the vet’s office.

And, furthermore, do we want a board that resembles the Stepford wives? Always all in agreement, pleasant and uniform? Combining our school districts was and continues to be messy and complicated work that benefits from strongly held and differing opinions.