Non-agenda items: What boards can do within 72 hours of a regular meeting
What boards can do within 72 hours of a regular meeting

Under Government Code section 54954.2, the agenda for a regular school board meeting must be posted at least 72 hours prior to the meeting in a location that is freely accessible to the public and on the district’s website, if the district has a website. The agenda must contain a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting. The description must be sufficient to give the public notice of the items to be discussed or acted upon, but generally does not need to exceed 20 words. These requirements help to ensure the public’s business is conducted openly. As a general rule, under Government Code section 54954.2, a governing board may not discuss any item that does not appear on the agenda posted for a regular meeting.

Government Code section 54954.2, subdivision (a)(3), allows board members or staff to briefly address items that are not on the agenda, but these limited exceptions do not allow the board to fully discuss and/or act upon a matter. These limited exceptions are as follows:

  • Members of the board or staff may briefly respond to statements made or questions posed during public comments.
  • The board may ask staff members to report back to the board on a matter and to place the matter on the agenda for a future board meeting.
  • Members of the board or staff may ask questions for clarification, make a brief announcement or make a brief report on their own activities.
For the most up-to-date guidance on conducting board meetings and Brown Act waivers during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit and see the April 1 guidance update. All information in this article currently applies during state social distancing measures.

School districts can be dynamic places and there are times when a board will need to fully discuss and act upon an item that is not on the agenda, leading board members to frequently ask: What can boards do if they need to discuss or take action on an item that is not on the agenda?

While generally a board may not discuss any item that does not appear on the agenda posted for a regular meeting, the following exceptions allow the board to discuss and take actions on items that are not on the regular agenda:

  1. A special meeting:

    Boards may hold a special meeting on an item of business when necessary. Special meetings may be called at any time by the board president or by a majority of the members of a governing board. Boards must give 24-hours notice for a special meeting and post the agenda for the special meeting on the district’s website. The board may only discuss the business on the special meeting notice at the special meeting.

  2. A two-thirds vote:
    An action may be taken on an item that does not appear on the posted agenda if two-thirds of the members of the governing board vote that there is a need to take immediate action and that the need for action came to the attention of the board subsequent to the agenda being posted. This means that a five-member board would need at least four affirmative votes to discuss or take action on an item. If less than two-thirds of members of a board are present, then the vote must be unanimous.
  3. An emergency situation:
    Boards may discuss and take action on a non-agenda item upon a determination by a majority vote of the board that an emergency situation exists, as defined in Government Code section 54956.5. An emergency situation is defined in part as a work stoppage, crippling activity or other activity that severely impairs public health, safety, or both, as determined by a majority of the members of the board.

Under Government Code section 54954.2(b)(3), boards may also continue to discuss an item that appeared on the agenda of, and was continued from, a meeting that occurred not more than five days earlier.

These exceptions should be construed narrowly, and boards should work to ensure their regular meeting agendas sufficiently describe each item for discussion and action. However, these exceptions allow boards some leeway to conduct the public’s business in a timely manner when items are not placed on the regular meeting agenda. For more information, please refer to your district’s Board Bylaw 9320 (Meetings and Notices), Board Bylaw 9322 (Agenda/Meeting Materials), and Board Bylaw 9323.2 (Actions By The Board).

Please note that the information provided here by CSBA is for informational purposes and is not legal advice. Please contact your legal counsel for questions related to this information.