What is an Open Forum?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2018
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The term “open forum” can refer to several things, depending on who is speaking and what the context is. All of these meanings, however, imply the open exchange of ideas and information, usually to better the common good. The word “forum” comes directly from the Latin. In Roman times, the forum was an open marketplace where people could make purchases, have discussions with other citizens, and try to reach agreement on matters of public interest. Some of these meanings have carried through to the modern day.

In a loose sense, this term can be used to describe any space in which people may exchange information and ideas. In the United States, for example, most government owned public property is an open forum. In that forum, citizens can protest, hold meetings, and exercise other first amendment rights. Some typical examples include sidewalks, parks, streets, publicly held buildings, and spaces set aside specifically for the purpose.

The term is also used to refer to a specific meeting or event. In this instance, an open forum is intended to be a venue in which people can gather to find out about a specific issue, reach a resolution on a controversial subject, or interact with members of their communities. Often, officials and representatives are present to answer questions from the public, facilitate the discussion, and provide information which people may find valuable or useful.


The idea of the open forum is very important to many democratic nations, since it allows citizens an opportunity to speak out about things which concern them. It also allows residents to have influence in their communities, by giving them a vote in major community decisions. Depending on the nation, a forum may offer citizens an opportunity to vote on proposed development, allocate community funds, or participate in their communities in other ways.

Although this type of forum is intended to be a space in which free speech is exercised, there are restraints. People are expected to behave politely, although they are welcome to disagree with each other. Violent words or actions are not condoned, and a forum must also be held at a reasonable hour. If citizens intend to exercise their public rights by marching or holding a demonstration, they must apply for permits, just as a group of individuals holding a forum in a municipal building must do. As a general rule, the open forum must be open to everyone, regardless as to race, gender, creed, or economic status.


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Post 17

@Post 16 re: Bullying in schools. In the 1960's, while in junior high, I was bullied constantly by a clique of girls who didn't like me because I was from out of state. I also caught the attention of the most respected athletic boy because I could run nearly as fast as he could during track meets, and he was a state champion. These girls hated me, and yet came to me when their friends bullied them too, because they knew I, at least, would treat them fairly.

Since then, I've read a great deal about bullying, and thought about the many different sorts of bullies I've met, children and adults. One of the only ways to end bullying is

to end bullying inside families. Children bully others, not because they're jealous, or they want attention, or they want power. No, they bully because they want to feel comfortable and in an emotional environment which they understand. It's a case of "the devil you know".

What most people think of as "normal" is not the normal environment of the bully. They treat others in the only way they understand, and the way they understand the world to work. They don't know how to be any different, and the way other people behave just doesn't make any sense to them. If they have to deal with people outside of that environment, it makes them a little crazy, and they proceed to "educate" the offenders to see the world as they see it -- in other words, to behave. To behave in a way they can understand, and subsequently control. If you can control a thing, you don't have to be afraid of it.

Bullying is a subculture, a way of life, handed down from generation to generation. This explanation needs to be taught to young adults before they leave junior high school, before they start to date, create families and raise their kids in the same culture. Someone needs to find these kids, and give them a 101 course -- I'm serious -- on what civilized communities hold in consensus, as "normal" behavior. Also try to give them practical, useful outlets for the behaviors they have learned.

Post 16

Bullying is one of the factors that leads to violence in schools, including school shootings. There are other causes which are identified in a newly published book - "Keep Kids Safe: Don't Let Our Schools Become Killing Zones." It deals with school shootings around the world and is available online. The book suggests public dialogue to find solutions to this kind of violence.

Post 15

A newly published book - Keep Kids Safe: Don't Let Our Schools Become Killing Zones - is a must read for teachers, parents, police and anyone with responsibility for the safety and security of children in schools. The book is available online, and traces the history of school shooting worldwide, focusing on Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Dunblane and many others. The author, Cal Millar, closely examines shootings and details factors that led up to these tragedies.

Post 12

Sorry to say, but bullying happens everywhere. You think your child is exempt from bullying because they go to a private school? You are so wrong. You do realize that glass houses do break?

Post 6

Open forum for schools also means that a school with an open forum has to allow (and can not discriminate) Any community group can use their building i.e. Junior Pro basket ball games on Saturdays; things that help the community but not the school. A closed forum means only the school building can be used by the school or its students.

Post 3

GreenWeaver- I agree with you. You do not have much control in public schools and it is up to the administration to decide what policies they are going to adopt.

I also wanted to say that an open community forum could be found on many internet sites. These forums allow members of that internet community an opportunity to voice concerns over things that have happened to them as well as asking for advice regarding other issues.

Other times these open forums offer members encouragement and praise when they have achieved success. These forums are like the virtual water cooler.

Post 2

Icecream17- I know what you mean. There was a case about a school out west that was going to start providing sex education to kindergarten children.

Another school was giving condoms to sixth graders. While these schools may have good intentions, it is understandable that the parents that have children in these school districts are upset.

These are perfect reasons to adopt an open forum in which the parents can voice their opposition.

This is why my kids go to private school because in a private school parents receive much more respect because they are paying for their child’s education.

This is probably why something like this would never happen in a private school.

Post 1

An open community forum allows people to discuss their views openly.

Many schools offer a limited open forum in which the parents can discuss aspects of the school policies along with academic programs.

Parents in these forums discuss anything from academic standards testing to new school policies. Sometimes the school district will have adopted a controversial policy that is not supported by the parents.

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