The latest Forsyth County school board meeting takes a different tone on continuing controversy

John Thompson
The Forsyth Board of Education met April 19.(Photo/John Thompson)

(Forsyth County, GA) It’s been the spring of discontent at school board meetings across the country this year.

The April 19 meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Education was no exception. The meeting saw parents comment on issues ranging from book banning to “indoctrination.”

Speakers - including high school students, teachers, and parents - let board members know their feelings on a recent book ban that saw eight book titles removed from the school system.

In March, Board Chairman Wes McCall had the meeting room cleared after the conversation with parents devolved into screaming.

Before the public participation Tuesday night, McCall urged for a different tone.

“Please remain civil and not have personal attacks,” McCall said.

High school senior Shivy Mehta talked about her personal experience.
Shivy Mehta describes her experince in the school system.(Photo/John Thompson)

“Being discriminated against is not an enjoyable experience,” Mehta said.

She urged the system to be wary about banning books.

“Books help mitigate discrimination in our school system.”

Parent Brooke Damron had a different take on the issue.
Brooke Damron addresses the school board.(Photo/John Thompson)

“We keep hearing about book banning. You can still buy the books in bookstores,” Damron said.

Damron said she could not understand why the school system would allow children to read books containing adult content.

Another high school senior, Jack Arnett, said he learned about book banning by reading “Fahrenheit 451.”
Jack Arnett is not in favor of banning books.(Photo/John Thompson)

“These voices represent a right wing mob. When it suits them, they ask for free speech. When they don’t like it, they wish to suppress it,” Arnett said.

Parent Patricia Wall got emotional when talking to the board.
Patricia Wall got emotional in her address to the board.(Photo/John Thompson)

One of the books removed was “19 Minutes” by Jodi Picoult.

The novel centers on a school shooting.

“The book is 455 pages and contains nine sentences of adult content that does not rise to the level of pornography,” Wall said. “We need to have content in context. No book is going to make a kid gay. Gay kids have been reading books about straight people, and it does not make them straight,” she said.

Grandfather Stefan Bartelsky was concerned that the focus on diversion, inclusion, and equity had not been banished from the educational environment.
Stefan Bartelski warned of school indoctrination.(Photo/John Thompson)

“We need to make sure it’s education, and not indoctrination,” he said.

After hearing from more than 20 speakers, McCall complimented the audience.

“Thank you for being so respectful.”

The board decided to move its executive session to 5:30 p.m. for future meetings, and continue starting the business meeting at 6 p.m. The public will still be allowed to speak for 3 minutes each, and there will be no limit on the number of speakers.

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact John Thompson at

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I've been writing articles around the metropolitan region for 30 years. My work has appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the NY Post, and other regional newspapers.

Senoia, GA

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