New Hanover Board of Education reconvenes remotely after chaotic scene

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County Board of Education resumed and completed its July meeting virtually Tuesday night after last week’s meeting had to be cut short due to an unruly audience.

Last week, 50 people signed up to speak before the board about issues that were and were not on the agenda. Before several of those people got a chance to speak, a member of the Lowercase Leaders tried to speak out of turn. There was yelling back and forth, and the board voted to recess the meeting for a week.

Board chair Stefanie Adams, who was not present last week, addressed the events that took place.

“Disruptions can’t be tolerated, the board has business to conduct that supports the district,” Adams told WWAY after the meeting. “We want to make sure that we keep the focus on our students and we’re going to move forward and progress positively, and we just need to be respectful and have productive dialogue as a community.”

Those who did not get a chance to speak last week were able to submit recorded comments that were played to the board.

Before the meeting, a group came together Tuesday afternoon to voice their displeasure with the meeting being held remotely and a policy up for discussion.

Black Lives Matter of Wilmington and New Hanover Educational Justice gathered at the 1898 Memorial, sharing concerns about proposed school district policy 5120.

The policy concerns the school district’s relationship with law enforcement.

Those in attendance interpreted the policy to mean students could be taken into custody or questioned by school resource officers without a parent’s consent.

“They have the option not to contact parents, and so what we find is that our kids are being interrogated, kids as young as five years old, and they don’t understand legal terminology,” said parent Angie Kahney. “Some of them are signing statements that they don’t know what they mean.”

Board vice-chair Nelson Beaulieu addressed this during the meeting, saying a Memorandum of Understanding between the school district, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, and the Wilmington Police Department passed by the board last month clarifies that parents would in fact be notified if a student was brought in for questioning.

Also on Tuesday, the board clarified that students and staff will be required to keep wearing masks for the time being.

During the recorded comments and the in-person comments last week several parents expressed concerns about the mask mandate, saying other counties in North Carolina are allowing students to go maskless.

However, the board says the governor’s current guidelines do not allow this.

“Currently we are following the North Carolina Safer at Schools toolkit and the governor’s executive order is in place through July 31st, and we are following that until it otherwise changes,” Adams clarified following the meeting.

The board also heard a presentation on new state Social Studies standards, which some in the community were concerned contained elements of Critical Race Theory.

One change of note- there will be new ‘underrepresented voices’ curriculum standards.

You can watch the entire board meeting here.

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