(Forsyth County, GA) Although it was the first meeting of the new year for the Forsyth County Board of Education (BOE) on January 17, some contentious issues from last year dominated the meeting. New Board member Mike Valdes and returning member Wes McCall were sworn in at the meeting. The Board selected Darla Light as the new Board chair and Lindsey Adams as the vice-chair.
Public participation policy
The Board heard about a proposed revised policy for public participation at BOE meetings. Last year, the BOE had several meetings with large crowds discussing controversial issues. During one meeting, then-Chairman McCall closed the room during the public comments session.
Highlights of the proposed policy include:
- Public participation may be allowed at the discretion of the Board at specific additional meetings under procedures set by the Board. These procedures require signing up for non-agenda-related topics at least 24 hours before the meeting and signing up at least 15 minutes before the session starts for items on the agenda.
- Signs, flags, and banners are prohibited inside the Board meeting room.
- Each citizen participating in the public comment session will be given three minutes to speak.
- Only residents of the School District, representatives of businesses or organizations, school system's businesses or guardians of students attending the schools of the District, or school system employees may address the Board during public participation.
- Multiple speakers from a group or organization should appoint one person to address the Board.
- Speakers can bring printed and other supporting materials.
- Issues involving employees or students and pending litigation shall not be discussed.
- The public is urged to follow other resolution processes outlined in Board policy or available at individual schools. However, public participation is intended for something other than this purpose.
- Using threatening remarks, hateful racial epithets, and other comments or disruptive conduct by speakers or audience members will not be allowed.
- The Board will only respond to comments made by the speaker during public participation if a member of the Board chooses to ask a question.
Violations may result in a speaker being asked to sit down. If a person attending a meeting refuses to follow the rules, they will be asked to leave and, if they refuse, be escorted from the meeting room. Severe or repeated violations of the rules of conduct may result in the individual being prohibited from speaking during a board meeting for an appropriate time.
Book banning discussion continues
In August 2022, the Forsyth County School District and a committee allowed seven books banned earlier in the year to be placed back in the schools.
The controversy about banning books began in January 2022. It culminated at the School Board meeting in March when Board Chairman Wes McCall had the meeting room cleared after the conversation with parents devolved into screaming over the issue. The school district ruled on August 15 that schools could add the books back to their libraries. However, the issue resurfaced during public comment Tuesday night.
Danielle Hartsfield, a professor in the education field, said there are no facts supporting that reading books causes children to be “deranged.”
“A parent has the right to choose what their child reads, but not what the other children can read,” she said.
Sawyer Kovacs suggested parents were looking at the wrong group to protest.
“They should sue PornHub. They are trying to silence everyone’s free speech,” Kovacs said.
Other parents had different views.
Cindy Martin read from a book in the school system that she objected to and said this was a serious issue.
Alison Hair said pornography damages children and harms their view of sexuality and people.
“Why are taxpayer dollars funding this insanity?” she asked.
Martin and Hair are currently involved in a lawsuit against the school district for banning Hair from attending meetings last year.
If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact John Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org
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