Prince William school board reunion cleared due to unruly crowd

On a chaotic Wednesday night at the Prince William County School Board meeting, the board unanimously approved a vaccine or testing mandate for all staff in the division as well as significant changes to its procedures for providing feedback. citizens.

Police attempt to clean the room at the Prince William County School Board meeting on September 15, 2021. (InsideNova / Jared Foretek)

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Jared Foretek from InsideNova discusses what happened at the Prince William County School Board meeting.

On a chaotic Wednesday night at the Prince William County School Board meeting, the board unanimously approved a vaccine or testing mandate for all staff in the division as well as significant changes to its procedures for providing feedback. citizens.

For a while, it was not clear whether the public session of the meeting would take place. School security and Prince William County Police were enforcing a strict capacity of 53 people for the public inside the council meeting room, with dozens outside trying to enter.

No brawls broke out and no arrests were made, but security personnel confronted people trying to enter the meeting room and sporadic shouting took place inside the meeting room among the public.

A local who attended the meeting said on InsideNoVa’s Facebook page that one group sang the national anthem and then faced others before the room was released.

“There were no riots, just angry worried parents who deserve to be heard, but the school board set us all up and never got out. The videos will be shared and pwc will see the truth! God bless you all! ”She wrote.

At 9:30 p.m., more than two hours after the scheduled start of the public session, council members returned the remaining 15 people to the meeting room, accessed and expedited their agenda, suspending public comment.

Members of the public hold signs and sit spaced before the Prince William County School Board meeting on September 15, 2021 (InsideNova / Jared Foretek)

Some at the Prince William school board meeting on Wednesday night held signs against “critical race theory”, one of the topics that led to the protests in Loudoun. Division heads said it was not taught in local schools. Lateef told InsideNoVa the decision to clean the building was a suggested “security call” by security personnel inside.

“I believed the room had been released for security reasons,” Lateef said. “… The school board chose to go out and continue with the business that we had this meeting because the next meeting is in October. “

Among other things, the board had a deadline to approve the sale of a number of bonds for capital improvements. The next scheduled board meeting will be on October 6, and Lateef told InsideNoVa after Wednesday’s meeting that they had not decided on additional security measures.

For Wednesday night’s meeting, the division made bag checks mandatory and said it would enforce social distancing capability, as well as face masks, which are required in all school buildings. Many people came to the meeting without face masks.

Standing outside the Kelly Center, Deputy Police Chief Jarad Phelps said the police department sent three officers to the meeting to supplement the division’s security staff. He said it was not clear whether or not this was more police than usual.

“Our interest is that no one gets hurt in our meetings. We have parents who are on our school board, moms and dads who are on our school board and no one wanted to see anyone get hurt, ”said Lateef.

Superintendent LaTanya McDade said that for staff members who refused to be vaccinated, their weekly tests would be available for free at the division’s facilities, and said more details will be forthcoming.

Employees will be required to disclose their immunization status by November 1, and new employees will be required to do so within 30 days of being hired.

“I believe that public health and public education are directly linked,” McDade said at the meeting. “We need to follow the science, look at the data and listen to the scientific experts. When it comes to the pandemic, scientists are unequivocal in their message: getting vaccinated is the best way to protect ourselves and those around us. “

Procedural changes unanimously approved by council will limit citizen comment time at council meetings to one hour and 30 speakers take turns for two minutes. Speakers will need to register in advance unless the 30 places are not filled at the start of the meeting. Only pre-approved posters will be allowed in the boardroom and policy mandates that comment will be “directly” related to school policy or operations.

Informally, public comment has not been limited previously, but Lateef said technically this change would increase comment time according to board rules. When the change was first proposed, he said it was related to what happened at the Loudoun County School Board meetings.

During the time that the building was cleaned on Wednesday evening, dozens of remaining people gathered at the main entrance to the building.

Rebecca Hermon, the grandmother of a pupil of Prince William, was there with her daughter. She said she was concerned about what students were being taught and that the public should be able to voice their concerns directly to the school board.

“If they still have the meeting, it’s not fair,” she said of shutting down public comments and closing the meeting. “These people represent the community. And I’m sure not everyone here will vote for them anymore. … Even if you don’t agree with someone’s point of view who comes to the meeting, you still listen to them.

Another group of teachers also gathered outside the building. Oveta Scott, a 6th grade teacher at Fred Lynn Middle School, said the attacks on the school board and critical race theory were baseless.

“We teach SOL, that’s what we teach. Learning standards. We do not deviate from it. We get the program guide, the rhythm cards, all that, ”Scott said.

“We don’t teach CRT,” said Riley O’Casey, an 8th grade social studies professor. “We teach children the truth, critical thinking, problem solving, examining multiple sources. “

After the meeting, Lateef said he hoped some of the aggression suffered by the board in the past two meetings would subside.

“I would ask the public to understand that we have serious business about restarting the school year with in-person learning. We really care about making sure we get it right and doing everything we can. We really have to make sure our people stay safe and don’t get sick in schools, ”he said.

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