Community worried New Hanover school board is censoring voices
(Wilmington StarNews) – Ten months ago, Peter Rawitsch was one of only two people who showed up at the New Hanover County Board of Education Center to speak publicly about out-of-school suspensions in elementary schools.
Now, at the most recent board meeting, he was joined by eight other advocates who urged the school board to change the policy and limit when students between ages 4 and 7 can be suspended from school.
And the board took notice of the steady increase in numbers his group, Love Our Children, was showing up in.
“The good news is we got their attention,” Rawitsch said. “The bad news is that they are very strategically trying to prevent our voices from being heard.”
Love Our Children and their advocacy against these suspensions was directly referenced during a policy committee meeting Tuesday where board Chairwoman Stephanie Kraybill brought forward suggestions for altering the call to audience session. She said two issues were dominating the meetings — elementary suspensions and teachers assistant pay — and she wanted to change that to give other constituents a chance to speak.
But those who attend the board meetings each month to speak on those issues and others said they believe the change is an effort by the chairwomen to stifle their voices.
“We don’t want it to be the luck of the draw if educators’ voices are heard by school board members,” said Mariel Kruse, a teacher’s assistant at Porters Neck Elementary, in an emailed statement. “Especially when we sacrifice our second jobs and make arrangements to be there — we want to make sure our stories are, at the very least, heard.”