Do you have a bully on board?

carving of angry bully

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / alessandro0770

Reader Lon Garrison from Alaska asks how to deal with a bully who intimidates other members of the school board, including the chair. There are several things a body can do to resolve this unfortunate situation. Points to consider:

1) Bullying is never allowed at board or council meetings. It’s just common sense that when people are intimidated, angry or frightened, they can’t reach good decisions.

2) If you have adopted Robert’s Rules of Order, you automatically have tools to deal with this situation.

3) Even if your body has not adopted Robert’s Rules or another parliamentary authority, common parliamentary law supports the necessity for order and respect in meetings.

4) The chair has the duty of stopping bad behavior by any member, interrupting the member if necessary.

5) If the chair isn’t responding as she should, members can raise a Point of Order to request that the chair take action. The chair must issue a ruling as to whether the point is correct or not.

6) Any ruling of the chair can be appealed by any two members of the board, in which case the board will decide the matter.

7) If a member continues to offend, a majority of the members can pass a motion that will:
– Request that the member apologize,
– Censure or reprimand the offender (statement of displeasure by the body)
– Direct the member to leave the current meeting, or
– Remove the member from committees to which he has been appointed.

8) It’s helpful to have a specific policy to deal with difficult behavior. The City of Kenmore, Washington invested a lot of effort into their “Council Rules and Procedures,” which can be found here. You will of course have an attorney review your policy to ensure that it conforms to the laws governing your board or council.

If you want to go more deeply into the methods that parliamentary procedure offers, here are two resources:

Leave a comment to share your war stories with us! We’re always glad to hear how things are going in your councils, boards and committees.

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Ann Macfarlane

Ann G. Macfarlane is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She offers an interactive and user-friendly way to master the key points for effective, efficient and fair meetings. Her background as a diplomat and Russian translator enables her to connect with elected officials and nonprofit board directors and give them the tools they need for success. She is the author of Mastering Council Meetings: A guidebook for elected officials and local governments.


  1. Lance Corpus on February 19, 2016 at 9:47 am


    My name is Lance Corpus and I work for the Idaho School Boards Association in Boise, Idaho. We enjoyed reading your article titled “Do You Have A Bully On Board?”. We are interested in republishing it in our magazine called the SLATE. Our next issue comes out in March and your article would be a great addition to our magazine and of course full credit will be given to Ann as the author. Do you think this would be a possibility and is there any specific language you would like included in regards to Ann as the author . Thank you very much and I hope to hear from you soon.


    Lance Corpus

    Idaho School Boards Association

    • Ann Macfarlane on February 19, 2016 at 9:55 am

      Lance, great to hear from you. I’m so glad that you found the article useful. Yes, you are most welcome to publish it in SLATE. Please send me an email and I’ll send an author description.
      With best regards,