School board adopts modified Robert’s Rules – is this legit?

Can Stock Photo/anja

A recent news story described how the Conway School District in New Hampshire adopted a modified version of Robert’s Rules of Order, after extensive debate on the topic. Was this a reasonable way to proceed? Absolutely!

You can write your own rules of order

Not every school board, local government body, or nonprofit board of directors needs the full depth of Robert’s Rules. Here are some points to note:

  • Boards and councils are free to adopt a set of rules or protocols that work for them—and indeed, many do. Such a document might be called “School Board Rules of Order,” “City Council Protocol,” or “Guidelines for Utility Board Meetings.” We recommend including reference to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, current edition, as the “fall-back authority” when needed.
  • The current edition in use now is Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 12th edition. It includes rules for small boards that can be very helpful (section 49:21).  If you have adopted this book as your parliamentary authority, you already are entitled to use the small-board rules. Here is our article, Small board rules are different.
  • It is also fine for groups who have chosen Robert’s Rules to add “special rules of order” that suit their needs. Here is our article, What are special rules of order in Robert’s Rules?
  • Whatever rules you adopt must conform to the requirements of state law and regulations.
  • It is also essential to follow the fundamental principles of parliamentary procedure. You may find it helpful to refer to our article, Rights and Responsibilities of the Member. 

Be sure to include these topics

We have a short list of items that should be included in a customized set of rules. These include:

  • What constitutes a quorum (the minimum number of voting members who must be present for business to be done)
  • The authority of the chair, members, and staff
  • Setting an agenda for your meeting and altering it during the meeting
  • Processing the core motions like Main Motion, Amendment, Refer to Committee
  • Rules for discussion, and prohibition of inappropriate remarks
  • Making a Point of Order and Appealing a decision of the chair
  • Voting requirements for ordinary motions, ordinances, and special motions like “Call the Question”
  • How to suspend the rules
  • How to revisit a decision using Motion to Reconsider or Amend Something Previously Adopted
  • How to censure a colleague who doesn’t observe the rules
  • Rules for public comment

We provide user-friendly, actionable information on all these topics in our blog posts. View list of all blog posts here.

Read the news story here, and share your thoughts by contacting us here.

Never miss an article!
Sign up today and get our blog articles right in your inbox.

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.