RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Contentious topics are at the center of many school board public comment sessions, and bad behavior can sometime be front and center too.
The Wake County School Board is looking at revising its public comment policy, discussing it at Tuesday’s policy committee meeting.
The revised policy adds a line stating, “Speakers who violate this policy may be ruled out of order and directed to leave the podium,” and a line stating, “Refusal to leave a meeting after being directed to leave by the presiding officer may result in criminal charges in accordance with G.S. 143-318.17.”
The current policy points people to the state law that results in charges, the new one explicitly spells out that they may be criminally charged.
“So, they’ve always been able to be,” said Wake County School Board Policy Committee Chair Monika Johnson-Hostler. “So, we haven’t actually had that issue, thank goodness. So, nothing prompted us to do the things that we’re already in our purview to do.”
She said the revised policy doesn’t give the board any new power it just puts it into the policy.
CBS 17 asked Johnson-Hostler why the new updates are happening now.
“We don’t foresee doing it, but we’ve always, as our, Kendrick Scott, our director of security came to share with us his perspective, and that’s literally putting in policy what we actually can do,” Johnson-Hostler said.
The revised policy also said speakers “must” refrain from personal attacks. The current one uses the word “encouraged.”
It’s a distinction Board Vice Chair Chris Heagarty feels is important.
“When we say encouraged, by policy, it acknowledges that you have a right to make personal attacks or insults and what we’ve seen is especially when these are directed even at potentially children it’s just out of line and out of order,” Heagarty said.
Board member Cheryl Caulfield asked where the board draws the line between insult and criticism.
“We’ve heard from both sides names that they are using as definitions,” Caulfield said. “Where are we gonna go with that line. We’ve heard bigo,t grooming, all different kinds of words like that from both sides.”
Johnson-Hostler said the policy would also state speakers need to bring signs back to their seats, something Board Chair Lindsay Mahaffey has already had to verbally tell speakers at meetings.
The board discussed potentially limiting the size of signs, but decided against it.
Johnson-Hostler said in her time on the board they never had to criminally charge someone for being disruptive or refusing to leave.
The board still has to vote on the final version of the revised policy. The first reading will come up at the next school board meeting.