What Are the Legal Requirements for School Board Meeting Minutes?

Lena Eisenstein

In this article, you will learn:

  • The steps minute-takers must follow to remain compliant with legal requirements

  • What key purposes school board meeting minutes serve

  • The role of accessibility and transparency in compliance efforts

School board meeting minutes serve as the official records of school board meetings and provides public access to the actions of the governmental body. In litigation, courts have found meeting minutes to be conclusive evidence of what transpired at a meeting or what action was taken by the board.

School board meeting minutes legal requirements are extensive and imperative. The minutes of school board meetings become historical records, therefore they must serve as clear and precise accounts of board meetings.

What should be recorded to meet the school board meeting minutes legal requirements?

There are fundamental points that should be in present in every meeting’s minutes. Most states provide an outline of what written meeting minutes must contain. For example, the state of Texas requires that school board meeting minutes contain the subject matter for the open meeting, whereas other states may not have the same requirement. It is imperative that the school board, especially the recording secretary, is aware of any legal requirements from the state.

For most school boards, meeting minutes may follow this format:

  • Date of the meeting.
  • Time the meeting was called to order.
    • This is essential to record that a quorum was present and the presiding board member has opened the meeting. Acknowledging that the quorum has been met and the meeting opened is crucial when aligning with legal requirements.
  • Names of the meeting participants and absentees.
  • Corrections and amendments to previous meeting minutes.
    • The draft minutes from the previous meeting should be made accessible to all present parties for review and approval. This provides an opportunity to make any corrections to the minutes for the previous meeting. Distributing hard copies of the minutes and allowing for time to read them during the meeting can waste time. Utilizing a board portal will allow for easy access to previous meeting minutes for review before the upcoming meeting.
  • Additions to the current agenda.
    • This may vary by the district and/or state. Some policies or regulations do not allow for business to be added to an agenda at the board meeting.
  • Record any results of voting, and that a motion and a second was made.
    • Board management software allows for votes to be tracked in real time through the software. Electronic voting options are also available.
  • Actions taken or actions that need to be taken.
  • Items that were held over or unfinished business.
    • This may vary by state; in some states, every agenda item must be addressed and therefore cannot be any unfinished business from the board meeting.
  • New business.
    • New business is typically only used for board members to bring up items to place on a future agenda. For most states, the public should always be made aware of new business items.
  • Open discussion or public participation.
  • Next meeting date and time.
  • Time of adjournment.
    • The presiding officer can remind others of the next meeting or events, review any assigned tasks or business, and then adjourn the meeting.

Minutes do not need to be verbatim recordings, but should be thorough and precise to fulfill board meeting minutes legal requirements. For each agenda item, write a brief, concise statement for each action that is taken by the board, with a short explanation that provides the rationale for the school board’s decision. If there are any lengthy or thorough discussions, write a brief summary of the major arguments or points.

Remember, school board meeting minutes serve as the official record of school board meetings and could even be used in litigation, it is imperative to be aware of the tone in how school board meeting minutes are recorded.

How the recording secretary describes the conversations and discussions during a school board meeting is as important as making sure that all of the materials and information from the meeting agenda is included. Meeting minutes will give the local community and others a view of the board’s goals, plans, and the work already being done.

For legal requirements to be met, it is imperative that minutes serve as unbiased, objective records of the meeting. Conversations or arguments that occur at the school board meeting should be recorded objectively. The recording secretary should avoid any remarks or personal observations that could be seen as subjective or prejudice.

It should be habit and routine to review the school board meeting minutes to check language to be sure that it is clear and complete. Leveraging the right school board management software, your school board meeting minutes can be easily tracked and adjusted as needed.

Complying with school board meeting minutes legal requirements through accessibility and transparency

Knowing how to write minutes of a meeting is vital to school boards, but an important issue related to meeting minutes is the accessibility of past school board meeting minutes. Access is not just imperative to pleasing the public and maintaining transparency, but meeting minutes are also a part of the official public record. Just as meetings are required to be made public (check your state’s Sunshine Laws for details regarding these requirements), meeting minutes must be made available for public review.

Board management software, like BoardDocs, helps school boards comply with meeting minutes legal requirements regarding accessibility. With the right technology that offers a centralized platform for information, individuals can view the meeting minutes and any documents related to the meeting. The board can also set up customized access settings for the minutes and related materials, so the public view of the meeting minutes may be different than the view for school board members or administrators.

School board meetings might have additional materials distributed to board members or attendees. Additional documents and materials are a part of the minutes according to some states’ board meeting minutes legal requirements. These documents can be attached to the school board meeting agenda and minutes, then these materials can be searchable through the BoardDocs software.

For some states, like Texas, video or audio recordings are a part of board meeting minutes legal requirements. If the board records meetings through video or audio, the footage of meetings are also able to be attached to minutes. All of these documents and files can be easily distributed to board members and other pertinent parties.

Knowing and understanding your school board meeting minutes legal requirements can be an extensive undertaking. However, it is vital to be abreast of these regulations to maintain accurate records for the district and transparency with the public.

Many boards find that leveraging a tool, like BoardDocs’ cloud-based software, makes recording and having access to school board meeting minutes easy and efficient, ultimately improving the performance of the school board. Recording the school board meeting minutes and managing and maintaining those minutes is a serious task, but utilizing the right tool can make the responsibility lighter.

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Lena Eisenstein
Lena Eisenstein is a former Manager at Diligent. Her expertise in mission-driven organizations, including nonprofits, school boards and local governments, centers on how technology and modern governance best practices empower leaders at these organizations to serve their communities with efficiency and purpose.