By Randall Bertrand
Behavior and decorum at the previous two Flagler County school board business meetings have me scratching my head. I have a question for those using the public comments agenda item as a forum to express their beliefs. What’s your message? What do you want to have the School District do?
First, let me start by stating that I consider the podium that provided for public comment at local public government meetings as a designated public forum with all the free speech protections afforded such a setting. I may not like what is said up there, but in no way am I looking to infringe upon anyone’s First Amendment right to say and claim what they want within the confines of the law. Let me also say, as a person that has attended and spoken at many Flagler County School Board meetings, that it’s easy to get carried away with one’s nerves, frayed and adrenaline flowing. I say that as a meeting participant who has gotten emotional at that podium, and also as someone who has at times pushed and even broken meeting rules.
My question remains: What’s the message?
It seems so long ago that my family and many members of this community gathered to petition the school district to add “gender identity” to the district’s non-discrimination policy. You may agree or disagree with this request. But the message was always clear every time I took to the podium. I wanted these specific words added to the non-discrimination policy–period. That effort took 14 long months to achieve, with many heartbreaks and setbacks along the way. Many people questioned why I asked for this. Recent hate-filled anti-LGBTQ+ activity in Bartram Trail High School just up the road in St. Johns County should make the need for explicit protection of these kids quite clear.
Now, let’s get back to those two school board meetings. Many people have stood up in both meetings expressing, often shouting and raging rhetoric about how they don’t want a mask mandate in Flagler County Schools.
Right now, there is no mask mandate. The Aug. 17 meeting witnessed the effort to enact a mask mandate in schools voted down, 3-2. The way things are going–between falling covid numbers and court decisions–there’s never going to be a mask mandate. What is the point of railing against something that doesn’t exist? What’s your message?
Next, I’ve also seen speakers upset about quarantine protocols in place at the district level. Well, there’s now new guidance from the State Surgeon General that allows parents to make decisions on quarantine procedures for non-symptomatic individuals that have been exposed. The district didn’t do this. I can only imagine the quarantine procedures from the district were risk-based. So, the request here is to have the district assume a bunch of risk because you don’t like it? Our memories seem rather short lately, so let’s not forget that the principal of one of our High Schools lost his battle with covid-19.
After all this, my question remains. What’s the message? What are you asking the district to change? If you make your request specific, and not bloviate at the podium, you might get some people to listen rather than roll their eyes. The diatribe does not work. Trust me, I know. Be consistent and concise in your request, not disjointed and unclear. You will see more effective results from your efforts.
Randall Bertrand is a Palm Coast resident and parent of a recent graduate of Flagler Palm Coast High School.
The whole school board needs to be fired, taxpayers are getting tired of seeing them in the news day in and day out. They are a disgrace to this county.
Seeing a photo that Flagler County Sheriff Officers had to intervene is enough. How much more immature can they get because they sure are not setting a good example for the children of this community.
Board of Ed your FIRED.
Tired of this says
No, the board doesn’t need to be fired. They were not the ones yelling and screaming, calling people names and making threats. They were trying to conduct business in an appropriate manner until the abusive, loud, threatening anti mask crowd with their camo outfits and pseudo military vests became disruptive. Try looking at the video before posting.
The school board needs to enforce the rules and they didn’t.
Concerned parent says
Unfortunately since some members speakers & crowd members cannot follow decorum & civility during their 3 minutes of speech, the school board should enforce the rules & have those removed also arrested & charged with a misdemeanor as stated in the School Board Policy Manual.
However, I also understand their apprehension due to the Hate Mongering Crowd.
I urge those of sound mind to please attend the next Meeting and show your support for our Board & Superintendent.
Janet Sullivan says
Randy, Well said. And I’m terribly sad that we lost you as a candidate for the School Board. But it’s evident you can be effective wherever you are. Thank you.
[Comment banned. Do not use this site to spread disinformation. Do not taunt us. Do not troll us. Do not threaten us. We’re not your sandbox.–FL]
Percy's mother says
There is no message Randy.
This is about the political agenda of a certain group of people and it’s “leaders”. To be specific, for about 10 days before the 9/21/21 school board meeting, the “leaders” of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Flagler were posting on social media for everyone (the followers of their political agenda) to show up at the said school board meetings. They even went so far as to post on social media for “back up” from people in Lake County. They continued to post for everyone to show up right up to the time of the actual scheduled school board meeting.
The “leaders” of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Flagler (Charles E Bowman III and his wife Jessico Bowman) as well as Mark Phillips of the Flagler Liberty Coalition fanned the flames for a good ten days beforehand, WITH NO CLEAR MESSAGE IN MIND other than to create a scene at the school board meeting. Mark Phillips spoke during public comments but basically said nothing. His message was to express anger.
The only agenda these people have is to cause trouble and create scenes worthy of local TV news.
THEY HAVE NO MESSAGE . . . they don’t have the mental wherewithal to even realize they don’t have an actual message.
Bailey’s Mom says
True! They only had hate & intimidation on their agenda.
Common Sense says
Well said !!
Sherri S-S says
I support the School Board Members and the Superintendent. I’m not sure about the misplaced comments in the Members being in the news as it was some of the disruptive public speakers. Most at the podium spewed nonsense, misinformation and lies. Two or three threatened members and one admitted to 2 calls to arm, that were in “code” but he felt obligated to tell us about it.
If you watch the closing remarks by the Board & new Student Board members you will better understand their passion for what they do….it’s about the students after all!
Virtual meeting time. School board meetings are not protest rallies.
Full agreement on virtual meetings until such time as adults start acting as such. Board has full control of microphone – shutting down screamers and anyone flinging threats. Most of us don’t show up because of these abusive immature ego driven individuals
Can we associate misinformation with the Repubs? The word is used quite often since Trump was Pres. Just asking.
The adults screaming at children, let alone children with cancer, for wearing masks need to reevaluate their lives. Pathetic humans.
Virtual meetings were allowed as part of the covid emergency measures, which have expired. The law does not make a provision for virtual meetings at a local board’s discretion.
That is interesting because I attended a state sponsored town hall meeting with Dept. of Health and all commenters had to register in advance, show our ID to confirm our identity, were given a number and all spectators and registered commenters were kept in rooms adjacent to the board room where we watched the proceeding on closed circuit tv’s. Organizers then called the numbers for commentators and had them line up (spaced) 3 at a time. We were asked to give the board a type written copy of our comments so that they could take notes as needed. We were then escorted one person at a time to the podium for our comments and then at the end of our comments, the board were free to ask questions if they wanted clarification. Finally we were escorted back out of the room and the next person was ushered in. Everyone was warned ahead of time that no inappropriate behavior would be allowed. There were a few people who pounded the podium a bit to make their point, and grant it there were some comments that were “out there”, as is typical at public board meetings. But honestly, even though I disagreed with some speakers, no one was out of control, as it would not have been tolerated. I don’t understand why school board and city council meetings can’t be held in a similar manner. They could simply hold the meetings in a smaller room, and limit the spectators to press and school district personnel, and then use the same format for commentators. In the law does it specifically say that spectators have to be in the same room while the meeting is being conducted? I don’t mean to question your comments, but there might be loop holes in the law that would allow boards to protect themselves and allow them to conduct the meeting without craziness and out of control spectators. Think about it…would they be able to act like this in a court room? I believe that boards need to have the guts to step up and put a stop to this type of anarchism. Perhaps you can reply to my inquiry?
Bailey’s Mom says
I urge all to view the video of the Sept 21 School Board meeting.
The public comments start in the 25th minute and again near the 2:25 mark.
Your eyes will be opened by the comments!
Thank you Mr. Bertrand for being a voice of reason. I could have used you as a guest teacher when I was teaching public speaking to my 6th graders.
I only hope that these incompetent agitators will use your suggestions.
Bill C says
Precisely on point- their only agenda is to grandstand, showboat, draw attention to themselves, threaten and sow dissention. It fills a frustrated need they have for power and control.
If you naively think the disruption at our school board meetings is just happening here. . . think again. The trump GOP has a “nationwide” agenda and strategy. Just take a look at this report from Texas:
Conservative groups are training activists to swarm school board meetings
BY ERIC GRIFFEY FORT WORTH
PUBLISHED 9:30 AM CT JUL. 22, 2021
FORT WORTH, Texas — Blanca Martinez stepped up to the podium at a recent meeting of the Fort Worth School Board. She and dozens of others were at the meeting to speak out against critical race theory, a decades-old academic framework that explores how racism is embedded in U.S. policies and systems. CRT wasn’t on the agenda, and isn’t taught in schools or a part of any staff training.
What You Need To Know
The same names continue to appear during the public comment periods of school board meetings all over North Texas, and they almost exclusively repeat the same conservative talking points
A movement to train activists has amped up grassroots parental organizing around the country, as seasoned conservative operatives are seizing on the issue to gain political momentum
Some organizations are creating training “toolkits” for activists
Activists and parents have launched 50 recall efforts this year aimed at unseating 126 school board members
“I’m a grandmother of three in Fort Worth who are about to start school, but I’d rather homeschool them because I’m terrified about what’s happening — not only with the CRT — but more importantly with the vaccines,” she said. “CRT is a poison. It’s a poison to the mind. It corrupts. Vaccines is [sic] a poison to your body, and it kills.”
“Fort Worth has been doing both,” she screamed into the microphone to applause.
Old poison in new bottles
School boards have been a target of anarchy-for-the-1% for decades
And so it goes…
This from the AP: The National Scoll Boards Association asked for the federal government to get involved to investigate cases where threats or violence could be handled as violations of federal laws protecting civil rights. It also asked for the Justice Department, FBI, Homeland Security and Secret Service to help monitor threat levels and assess risks to students, educators, board members and school buildings.
“As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the association wrote.
The letter documents more than 20 instances of threats, harassment, disruption, and acts of intimidation in California, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio and other states. It cites the September arrest of an Illinois man for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct for allegedly striking a school official at a meeting. In Michigan, a meeting was disrupted when a man performed a Nazi salute to protest masking.
“We are coming after you,” a letter mailed to an Ohio school board member said, according to the group. “You are forcing them to wear mask—for no reason in this world other than control. And for that you will pay dearly.”
Bailey’s Mom says
I have reached up and out to see if the County or School Board can install metal detectors at the entrance along with Security so all people sign in and are checked for weapons.
It’s sad when you have to have so many Deputies present to make sure the Extremists are carrying weapons.
I welcome the extra security and perhaps more citizens & parents in Flagler County will show up to voice their support for the safety of our Students & Community.
This is not new…In 1905, when the Supreme Court ruled on vaccines and Justice John Marshall Harlan explained that the Constitution did not allow Americans always to behave however they chose. “Real liberty for all could not exist,” Harlan wrote in his majority opinion, if people could act “regardless of the injury that may be done to others.”