CCS switches to fully virtual board meetings, takes measures against disruptive behavior

Staff Editorial

On Sept. 30, CCS announced that all school board meetings would be conducted virtually until further notice. According to a district-wide email, leaders made this choice in response to disruptions, harassment, and intimidation directed toward teachers and board members that culminated during a board meeting on Sept. 27. The HiLite staff fully commends the district for its decision to host virtual board meetings.

Over the past year, CCS board meetings have experienced an increase in attendance as parents and community members have spoken out about topics like social-emotional learning and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Having this public forum to voice concerns and ask questions is a vital part of the democratic process of running a school district. However, those conversations should be conducted with decorum. That’s where CCS board meetings have gotten out of hand.

During a school board meeting in July, for example, a handgun fell out of a man’s pocket, leading Carmel police officers to detain him. The man was charged with possession of a firearm on school property, a felony in Indiana. In response to this, CCS implemented wand metal detectors to board meetings. District spokeswoman Emily Bauer said people attending board meetings should expect metal detectors from now on. Then, before the August school board meeting, CCS announced in an email it would temporarily suspend the public comment portion as part of new measures in response to “disruptions, verbal attacks, intimidation (and) inappropriate behavior.” CCS further stated “the repeated use of board meetings to…promote division and create hostile environments” led to the change.

Unfortunately, the disruptions didn’t stop. During the September board meeting, the school board was set to vote on a bylaw regarding public comments and a policy outlining civility and decorum. The meeting recessed after audience members again interrupted the outlined agenda. 

This trend of disruptions is not limited to Carmel. Since the return of in-person school board meetings, districts across the country have reported a major increase in verbal harassment and violent protests. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter on Sept. 29 to President Joe Biden asking for help from federal law enforcement. 

“As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased,” the NSBA wrote, “the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

The CCS district cited examples of harassment against teachers and CCS staff in a community message released on Sept. 30. 

According to CCS, “Board members have had their home addresses posted in acts of intimidation. Teachers have received letters and emails with threats of violence and unwarranted references to family members.”

The HiLite staff, as members of the student body, condemns the intimidation directed toward our teachers and administrators and we commend the district’s decision to indefinitely switch to fully virtual school board meetings. Since children look up to their parents as models for good behavior, we hope there will be more civility in future CCS board meetings.