Gwinnett County Public Schools officials said they plan to have greater security at the school board meeting scheduled to take place Thursday after a stand-off delayed the start of the May 20 meeting for about 40 minutes.
The district is also distributing information on what types of behavior are expected at board meetings, and the consequences for a repeat of what happened last month. There was also a dispute between audience members at the April board meeting over face masks — the same issue at the heart of the standoff in May — which resulted in the president of Gwinnett County NAACP being escorted out of the meeting.
“In light of disruptive behavior at recent School Board meetings, our Board of Education and the school district want to emphasize the district’s commitment to ensuring that the business of the Board is conducted in an orderly and safe fashion and our commitment to protecting the well-being of visitors, staff members and board members,” the district said in a statement.
“As part of the district’s plan for this month’s meeting, there will be additional security in the room and on campus. In addition, information is being shared about the expected behavior and decorum of visitors to School Board meetings as well as consequences for those who choose to disrupt proceedings.”
One of the key steps district officials said they will take is the protocol for dealing with people who cause a disruption. The district said any disruptions will be dealt with immediately “as they cannot be allowed to interfere with the official business of the Board of Education.”
Anyone who causes a disruption during the meeting will be asked by either Board Chairman Everton Blair, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks or someone designated by Wilbanks to stop the disruption. If that person does not stop, police or other security personnel will escort the person out of the room, and district officials said they could face criminal charges.
Audience members will also be asked to silence their phones at the meeting, and they are expected to “act with decorum, acting civilly and politely to others.”
Under the school board’s recently revised public comment policy, a maximum of 30 people will be allowed to address the board during one of two public comment periods. Audience members will be expected to refrain from making comments or other types of sound while someone is speaking, district officials said.
“Our school district is taking this situation very seriously as the safety of those visiting our facilities is a priority,” district officials said in a statement.