School Board Members Cut Meeting Short Due to Spirited Public Comment
The Albemarle County School Board was set to discuss its dress code policy, but the meeting was cut short due to a large showing of people calling for a direct ban of confederate and racist imagery.
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The Albemarle County School Board was set to discuss removing Confederate symbols from its dress code policy, but the meeting was cut short due to board members' grievances with too much public comment and members of the audience chanting "shame."
The school board meeting planned for Thursday, August 23, was set to focus on the school system’s dress code, which has been an ongoing topic for the last several months. However, many agenda items had to be put on hold.
Issues revolving around the dress code began after a parent said her child was traumatized by seeing a Confederate flag on someone’s clothing in school.
Thursday, the board was set to vote on changing the wording of its dress code policy to make it more clear, fair, and equal for all students and update disciplinary actions for code violations.
However, the vote never took place.
Board members took a 10-minute recess following the first speaker, saying that members of the audience were not allowed to make any noise while matters were being discussed.
The meeting ended and people were told to leave, but people in attendance, including those who answered the Hate Free Schools Coalition of Albemarle County's call to speak out at the meeting, gathered in front of the Albemarle County Office Building to take matters into their own hands. Members want to see the school board explicitly ban Confederate and racist imagery.
"If another student is wearing Confederate flag or imagery that symbolizes the south will rise again and that we will eradicate people of color and marginalize people, if someone sees that, there is some kind of policy in place that allows for the student being impacted to be protected," said Amanda Moxham, a member of the coalition.
But disruptions continued.
“No clapping, no booing or any other form of noise-making occurs, we would like your assistance with helping continue our meeting tonight,” school board member Jason Buyaki said. “So I would like to call the next speaker and I would ask that everyone remain silent, and if you support a particular view, please stand.”
Board members quickly ended the meeting. In response, members of the audience gathered outside the Albemarle County Office Building and went on with the planned speaker list.
"It wasn't our intention to shut the meeting down,” Moxham said. “I'm surprised that they made the choice knowing why we’re here and what we want to talk about. It’s very clear to me that their choice was to shut it down to preserve their own comfort.”
Members of the Hate Free Schools Coalition in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, even came to speak to the school board with the recent event of the toppled Confederate statue fresh on their minds.
"With the unfortunate incident that happened, the tragedy that happened in Charlottesville, our board voted immediately adopt a change in our policy so that you cannot wear offensive attire,” Deborah Storman, of Chapel Hill’s chapter of the coalition, said.
School board members say they may have to hold a special meeting to discuss the issue.
The next regular school board meeting is set for September 13.