The Chamberlain School Board finds discussion of its refusal to include a Native honor song in its graduation ceremony that in April it banned the subject from further discussion at its meetings, and maybe forever. The Chamberlain School Board has also tightened the rules for members of the public to place their issues on the official agenda, requiring longer notice ahead of time.

The Mitchell Daily Republic sees this increased oppression as unnecessary and possibly unconstitutional:

The latest moves to squelch public debate are particularly unsavory. The First Amendment to our national Constitution includes the right of Americans to petition their government for a redress of grievances. That right doesn't only cover the circulation of printed petitions. It's a right that's been broadly interpreted as applicable to all levels of government and covering activities such as communicating with elected officials and organized lobbying. "In modern America," says the First Amendment Center, "petitioning embraces a range of expressive activities designed to influence public officials through legal, nonviolent means."

We're not constitutional scholars and can't say whether anyone's rights are being violated in Chamberlain. It seems clear to us, though, that at least the spirit of the First Amendment is under attack when local government leaders go out of their way to shut down public discourse on a matter of public concern [editorial board, "Hardened Views Against Honor Song Violate Spirit of 1st Amendment," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.05.08].

Shutting out public input on a specific topic violates basic tenets of representative democracy. Suppose members of the community waged a successful public relations campaign. Suppose Chamberlain folk were swayed by the letter from The King Center, a letter the board ignored, and they wanted to come en masse the the school board to ask for a change in policy to acknowledge the sizable Native American population among their graduates and families. The board has made it impossible for citizens to be heard, now or perhaps ever.

Against such intransigence, the only remedy appears to be the ballot box. Chamberlainers, vote the bums out.