The Rev. Shane Harris. File photo courtesy of Harris’ office

The San Diego Unified School District will test the “Boost Democracy” texting initiative championed by civil rights activist Rev. Shane Harris.

Board of Education President Richard Barrera joined Harris at a press conference on Thursday announcing a test of the concept at the July 13 school board meeting.

The program seeks to make public meetings more accessible by continuing to utilize hybrid and online techniques developed during the pandemic as well as text messaging to notify people of specific agenda items.

“San Diego Unified strongly encourages civic engagement and understands that school board meetings can run long, often requiring several hours of an individual’s time,” the district said in a statement. “Texting notifications will make it easier for stakeholders to participate in online and hybrid board meetings.”

Harris’ organization People’s Association of Justice Advocates is urging San Diego County’s four largest government entities to text constituents when the agenda item they want to speak on comes up at a public meeting. San Diego Unified is the first to agree to test the idea.

While the online and hybrid meetings during the pandemic were a step forward, Harris said their sheer length created barriers to participation, giving him the idea for text notifications.

“I saw first hand the long waits that were not efficient for the every day person,” he said. “Making democracy more accessible and “Boosting Democracy” is about making life easier for the every day constituents.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.