Triangle students walk out, united in their grief and resolve for change
A North Carolina state legislator recently criticized a leader at a school that held an assembly to honor the victims of the Florida school shooting.
Rep. Beverly Boswell, a Republican from the coast, boasted on Facebook Friday that she called the leader of a charter school north of Durham about what the school did on March 14, when thousands of students left classrooms across America to protest gun violence. Seventeen students were killed in a shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.
Boswell wrote on Facebook that she heard Roxboro Community School, a charter school about 130 miles away from her home of Dare County, "forced students to participate in the walk out." On Facebook, she posted what she says is an account of her conversation with Dave Ebert, the school's managing executive director.
Boswell said she asked Ebert if what she heard was true.
"We didn’t walk out. We had an assembly in the gym. If the student didn’t want to participate, all he had to do was tell his teacher. We had special bleachers for those that didn’t want to participate," Ebert told Boswell, according to her Facebook post. He confirmed the phone call to The News & Observer on Monday.
Roxboro Community School is a middle and high school that has about 720 students, Ebert told The N&O. He said he opted to hold an assembly — in which students read the names of the Parkland victims and held a moment of silence — to avoid classroom interruptions throughout the day.
Boswell, upon hearing the explanation, said she then asked Ebert, "So the students that were eating tide pods last week run your school this week?"
Videos circulating on social media in recent months have shown teenagers and adults biting into, or pretending to bite into, pods containing laundry detergent.
Ebert dismissed Boswell's suggestion, and reiterated to The N&O what he told Boswell: "There was nothing political about it." He held the assembly in part because the school "didn't want political statements" during a walkout, if students were to have one.
The assembly was so brief, he said, that "it took us longer to get the students in-and-out of the gym."
“We just wanted to do something short and simple. No political statements," Ebert said. The assembly started around 10:15 a.m. "They came in, we read the names, we had a moment of silence, and that was it."
That didn't dissuade Boswell from criticizing the school on Facebook.
"The students ARE in charge of this school," she posted. "This school will not support conservative values."
Boswell is an assistant medical phlebotomist who was elected to represent House District 6 in 2016. On her campaign website, Boswell describes herself as a conservative champion who "won’t buckle under to political correctness and public pressure from organized left-wing lobbies."
She has sponsored bills that would allow handgun owners to carry their weapons concealed without a permit, establish life "at the moment of conception" and repeal a ban on plastic bags in the Outer Banks. She didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Republicans hold a supermajority in the state House and state Senate and can override the vetoes of Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. But Democrats hope to gain influence in Raleigh through midterm elections later this year.
Boswell faces a primary challenge from Bobby Hanig, chairman of the Currituck County Board of Commissioners. The winner of the Republican primary will likely face Democrat Tess Judge.
'Why is she calling?'
Ebert, for his part, said he received a complaint from just one parent. He described his conversation with Boswell as cordial, but said he thought her call was odd and that her Facebook post left out some details of their conversation.
He didn't know about Boswell's Facebook post until a reporter emailed him about it.
“I thought, 'she doesn’t represent our area, so why is she calling?'" Ebert said.
He said he thinks most parents will agree that the school's plan prevented — not enabled — political activism.
“I’m old fashioned," Ebert said. "I was raised that you keep your political opinions to yourself.”