Civic

Protest Held Outside School Board Meeting

A small part of the crowd outside the Buncombe County School Board Meeting.

Asheville – A large group gathered outside of Thursday’s Board of Education monthly meeting. 

The group came following a Board of Education meeting held on May 6, 2021, in which parents were upset that they were not allowed to gather together inside of the building to discuss their concerns with the board. 

The Board of Education allowed each community member three minutes to speak, but they had to wait outside of the building and enter only for their speaking time and then leave due to COVID-19 restrictions. Parents argued that this broke their first amendment rights in the US Constitution, as well as Article 1 Section 12 of the North Carolina Constitution. 

A press release from some parents in this group states, “According to the 47-minute video recorded just steps outside the meeting hall, citizens of Buncombe County were denied access to a public meeting and never got the chance to address board members about how the board should handle certain matters involving their children.”

The press release states that Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller instructed Buncombe County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Ball and Deputy Morgan to deny parents access to the meeting and threatened to arrest them.

On May 24, 27 sworn, signed and notarized affidavits from citizens at this meeting were filled at the Sheriff’s office and sent to each member of the Buncombe County Board of Education and Sheriff Miller. This affidavit calls for the immediate resignation of the Board of Education and Sheriff Miller. 

These affidavits for Sheriff Miller were also sent to Western Surety Company, a subsidiary of CAN Financial in Chicago, IL. According to the press release, this agency paid the bond which guarantees that Sheriff Miller will fulfill his duties as Sheriff of Buncombe County. 

Parents and community members then gathered at the meeting this past Thursday. Individuals were still invited to speak for up to three minutes in front of the board, but they must come in one at a time. The group was upset and many individuals began to chant, “let us in.”

Before members began to assemble near the front door, community member David Hurley, who plans to run for Buncombe County Sheriff, spoke to the group and opened in prayer. 

David Hurley speaks with a member of the crowd outside the Buncombe County School Board Offices. Photo by Morgan Cook.

He later stated, “These people are here today because last time we came here to speak, 50 or 60 people showed up, 40 people signed up to speak, and they were once against not allowed in: one at a time, three minutes to speak, and then they would have to come back out. That’s not how the North Carolina Constitution was written, the North Carolina Constitution says in Article 1 Section 12 that we have the right to assemble together to instruct our representative. This kind of stuff right here where board members can just make rules because they feel scared isn’t what was intended in the North Carolina Constitution, nor does any constitution give them the right to change rules and laws around as they see fit.”

A petition reading, “PETITION from the Buncombe County of North Carolina Residents for all current members of the Buncombe County School Board to Resign Immediately” was passed around. 

The group argued that it was their first amendment right to enter the building and stand before the board together as a group, not one at a time. They then told school board employees and a deputy, who was stationed at the door, that they were directly in opposition to the constitution. 

Parents also told the officer, “We are not BLM,” “We defend [the police] every day,” and “We love our children, and we love this country.”

One parent, Andrea Olson, stated, “One of my children has had to wear a mask for the last 8 weeks and I traded that for three years of no public school, and I feel terrible about it. Our school system is suffocating our children, making them wear masks that do not work for no reason at all and also starting to force vaccines on them. And we’re here to say that enough is enough.”

Eventually, three community members entered the building, following the guidelines laid out by the Board of Education. One individual was Don Yelton, who exited the building and addressed the crowd stating, “If you’re gonna get to speak, you’re gonna have to follow the rules. That’s the facts.”

The group broke up after a while, believing that nobody would be allowed in. Many people left, and later on, employees told the group that if they follow the rules everyone would be able to speak. While the group was not happy with this answer, parents did get in line to speak at the meeting. 

Yelton stated, “You saw what happened today, you can make a fool of yourself out front and get nowhere or you can go in. Just think, if all these people had lined up, done what they asked them to do, and said, ‘I don’t like what you’re doing.’ They would have seen all those people as votes. But no, they would rather stand out here and yell, than do something productive.”

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