School board clarifies press interview ethics

DCSS lawyer Tommy Coleman talks to board members about talking to the media. / Sarah Bleau

Dougherty County School Board Chairman James Bush asked School System Attorney Tommy Coleman to clarify guidelines for board members talking to the media during Wednesday afternoon's board meeting.

Attorney Tommy Coleman says the board adopted a code of ethics a while ago, and stemming from that was the idea that it is an ethical violation for members talking to the press before asking the board's permission. Coleman clarified that members do not have to ask permission from the board before talking to media. He says there are certain risks when talking about specific teachers or students.

"These guys are all political activists. They have campaigns, they have constituents and when they disagree with what the board does, they certainly have a right and maybe an obligation to tell their constituents they voted this way when the board voted the other way," says Coleman.

Coleman says the ethics policy is trying to discourage board members from engaging in personal attacks. He says the policy indicates that members should be representing themselves and not the board to the media, and engage in tasteful policy discussions.

"I don't think that necessarily prohibits a member of a board from calling the press, expressing their individual opinions, but don't represent that that's the board opinion when it's your individual opinion. That just creates good harmony," says Coleman.