Ban requested on personal attacks at Wake school board meetings

Staff writerApril 30, 2010 

— Several civil rights groups sent a letter today asking the Wake County school board not to approve a new policy that would ban speakers from making personal attacks at board meetings.

Amid heated public words at recent board meetings about ending the diversity policy, the school board is set to give initial approval Tuesday to a new policy that sets guidelines on what speakers can say. In today's letter, the groups object to language in the policy that says "speakers are required to refrain from personal attacks and insults directed at the Board, staff, or other members of the public."

"Comments that go directly to an elected school board members' job performance are protected speech - not personal attacks..." according to the letter. "The new policy prohibiting 'personal attacks' will likely result in impermissible viewpoint discrimination."

The groups argue that the school board can deal with disruptive behavior at board meetings without including this new language against making personal attacks.

The letter was signed by the ACLU of North Carolina, Legal Aid of North Carolina, the N.C. Justice Center, the state NAACP, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

Several of the groups that signed the letter have criticized the new school board majority's plans to end busing for socioeconomic diversity. The school board is also set Tuesday to give initial approval to a revised student assignment policy that makes neighborhood schools a priority while no longer calling for socioeconomic diversity.

Anger about eliminating busing for diversity has led to tense moments at recent board meetings.

At a March board meeting, the Rev. Curtis Gatewood, second vice president of the NAACP, called school board chairman Ron Margiotta a "white racist" and said he was going to hell.

At the last board meeting, local activist Chase Foster called school board member John Tedesco a "right-wing extremist" for speaking at the April 15 Tea Party rally. He accused Tedesco of "seeking fame off the backs and lives of Wake County’s 140,000 students.

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