Citizens Denied Entry into Public Meeting - TribPapers

Citizens Denied Entry into Public Meeting

Just some of the citizens outside the May Buncombe County School Board meeting who say they were denied entry to the meeting.

Buncombe County – Last week, the Buncombe County School Board held their regular meeting. However, they did so without about 50 people who were not allowed into the gathering but had signed up for public comment. Now those citizens are speaking out. 

Stephaine Parsons and Tamara Parker are two of those who gathered to speak but were denied entry to the public meeting. Parsons is hearing from a number of parents after last week’s incident left parents without a voice at the meeting and has since gone out on social media. Parson states these parents claimed to have tried to reach out to the school board members but have not heard back from them about their concerns.

Their Concerns

According to Parker, there are several concerns parents have, not just one. Parker says they range from Critical Race Theory being taught in schools (Parker says North Carolina is just one of three states that have voted in the controversial course of study) to vaccinations to attend school to masks in the classrooms for students with medical conditions. Parker says she currently has one student in the system and “…another who I had to take out of the system because it was not working. The whole virtual school thing was not working and we’re homeschooling her.  Wearing the mask all the time is just untenable.”

She went on to say, “A lot of people have health issues and can’t wear masks. It’s like they’re (schools) creating two different types of people. Parsons said, “They are creating segregation.” They worry that instead of segregating based on race, it will be masked and unmasked and eventually vaccinated and unvaccinated. 

Parsons, whose child had a severe reaction to a vaccine back in 2019, has taken a strong stand against vaccinations for her child and an advocate for those parents who don’t want a vaccination for their children.  She sees educators taking on the role of health professionals by mandating masks and vaccines when they are not medical professionals themselves and could be harming the students by not allowing exemptions for medical conditions.

The Incident 

When the citizens showed up at the meeting last week, they were met by Buncombe County School Resource Officers at the door and were told they would have to come in one at a time with a mask and then leave after speaking. An unnamed go-between from the school board was also seen in videos posted to social media talking with parents, but no school board members were ever seen coming to the door to address the parents.

Asked about the incident, Stacia Harris, Communication Director for the Buncombe County School System, said, “The Buncombe County Board of Education provides a time at each regular meeting for public comment. Like all public bodies, the board places reasonable, content-neutral restrictions on public comment such as a time limit. In addition, during the current state-of-emergency, the board only allows one member of the public into the board room at a time to give public comment. For all board meetings and especially during a health crisis, maintaining the health and safety of BCS staff and visitors is a top priority.

“A group of individuals did come to the board offices and demand to address the Board without following any of the normal rules. The Superintendent offered to allow them to all gather in a large space to give their comment to the Board on camera. He also offered to get Board approval for the group to appoint a spokesperson to give comment for a longer amount of time. 

“Following discussions with school officials and school resource officers, the group unequivocally refused to follow any rules for public comment or any reasonable offers for the board to adjust the rules for public comment,” Harris said in the statement. 

Parsons and Parker said School Board Attorney Chris Campell made a statement at the meeting that no one had signed up for comment. Their allegations were confirmed by the school board’s youtube video and by Harris’ statement, “Members of the group did sign the public comment sign-up sheet; however, again, they refused to adhere to Board rules.” Contacted by the Tribune, Campbell told the newspaper, “That was wrong. Someone told me right before the meeting that.” Campbell said he could not remember who told him that.   

The Tribune also reached out to every school board member but did not hear back from any of them by press time.

Editor’s note: Tamara Parker and the writer of this article are not related.

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