More arrests at school board meeting

(Left to right) Gayle Santi Matthews, Samuel Cole Matthews, Carolyn Veronica Billings, Graham Marshall Buckner, Doris Hill Justice and Seth Keel

August 11, 2010 4:13:37 AM PDT
Police took a group of about a half dozen protestors into custody at the Wake County School Board meeting Tuesday.

The school board hoped to focus on the new budget, but once again, police had to step in to oust protestors challenging the schools diversity policy.

It came during the public comment section when three women and three teenagers came up to the podium, linked arms, and were led away in handcuffs by Raleigh police who later hauled them off to the Wake County Jail.

Middle Creek High School student Seth Keel, 16, bashed the school board for ending its nationally recognized diversity policy before he left the podium.

"Sadly this is about to change because of five close minded board members," he said. "A neighborhood-school system will segregate schools based on socio-economic status and create unequal opportunities for learning."

Keel, along with, 71-year-old Carolyn Veronica Billings, 18-year-old Graham Marshall Buckner, 73-year-old Doris Hill Justice, 16-year-old Samuel Cole Matthews and 47-year-old Gayle Santi Matthews were all charged with second-degree trespassing Tuesday.

Last month, 19 protesters - including the leader of the North Carolina NAACP Rev. William Barber - were arrested at a previous school board meeting at Wake County school headquarters.

The demonstrators are opposed to the Wake County school board's recent decision to end the district's socio-economic diversity policy in favor of more neighborhood oriented school zones. The protestors say the change will lead to a resegregation of the district.

Since that meeting, Raleigh police have installed a new camera above school board members to keep a constant stream of the crowd.

The school system's existing camera cuts off when the board is in recess.

All the security costs are adding up. Security at last month's meeting cost upwards of $20,000 - while the school board is cutting six jobs in transportation, one area superintendent and a secretary, and reducing the government affairs job from full time to part time.

The school board continued its business after the protest Tuesday by passing a budget and changing the definition of a long-term suspension. The language now reads "in excess of 10 school days, but not exceeding time remaining in school year."

The board also voted to reduce the number of school board meetings to one per month, a move that Board Chairman Ron Margiotta says will lead to a different way of doing business.

"So I have no doubt that minor adjustments may be required," he said.

It includes exploring the possibility of having meetings at different venues and times as well as investigating alternative methods to sign up for public comment.

"The intent is to allow full and active participation of all board members and as much public input as we can," Margiotta said.

Meanwhile as the school board met Tuesday, other opponents of the board's decision to end the diversity policy met at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church to discuss their future.

"We see this issue as both an issue of deep morality, an issue of justice," Rev. Barber said.

About 10 clergy members discussed the next step in their fight against the new school board majority and its decision to dismantle the existing socio-economic diversity policy.

"Additional mass meetings, possibly a clergy summit," Barber said. "We're going to be reviewing where we are in the deep moral underpinnings of the civil rights laws, like Title 6 and Brown v. Board of Education."

Reverend Barber would not say exactly what they plan to do next, but he says he'll share details later.

However, he did say the NAACP did not organize the demonstration at Tuesday's school board meeting, but has encouraged others to follow their example.

"If others followed, they would have to follow based on their own moral consciousness," he said. "I certainly support those who have chosen to do it today."

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