Orange County Public Schools board chair ejects parents, speakers from meeting

Board Chair Hillary Mackenzie ejected speakers from the Oct. 11 board meeting for not speaking on topics dictated by the agenda

Oct. 11, 2021 — Proud Boys members stand outside an Orange County School Board meeting. Image credit: David Larson, North State Journal

RALEIGH — At the direction of the Orange County Public Schools board of education chair, parents and members of the public were ejected from the Oct. 11 board meeting by Orange County sheriffs’ deputies.

The reason? Apparently speaking about concerns and topics that were not on the meeting agenda.

Attendees were also subjected to metal detectors and told they could not congregate on the premises of A.L. Stanback Middle School where the meeting was being held.

Several times during the meeting, Mackenzie was heard to say, “you cannot talk on that topic,” before motioning for deputies to remove the person. Loud booing throughout the auditorium followed.

Orange County schools’ policy manual does not include language dictating what a speaker can or can’t talk about beyond barring discussion of personal information, student information or addressing a specific board member with a grievance.

“If you don’t speak about agenda items you will be asked to leave,” Mackenzie repeated several times.

In the background, a male attendee yelled, “You’re shutting down parents! You shut down parents. You advocate for a Communist cause and that’s going to be exposed.”

Shouts from the audience were fairly steady throughout the public comments portion of the meeting.

Following additional yelling and gavel banging, another individual attempted to address curriculum, but the moment he uttered the words “racist behavior” Mackenzie intervened, saying she could “not let you speak on that,” while sending deputies to intercept him and walk him out.

Even when speakers attempted to address an item on the agenda, a resolution to “address harm caused to students by incidents of hostile and racist behavior,” Mackenzie gaveled them out of order and still had them escorted out by law enforcement.

While at least four people were ejected, It is unclear just how many people in total Mackenzie had thrown out of the meeting.

The resolution, overall, opposes racism and white nationalist organizations and says the board “stands united against all forms of white nationalism and white supremacy.”

North State Journal has requested emails related to the creation of the resolution but has not yet received any documents from the district.

Several of those speakers Mackenzie had ejected were members of the “Proud Boys,” who came to address the resolution and the discovery of books they called “porn” in the district’s high schools.

The resolution makes a number of claims including a “growing presence of white nationalist displays and intimidating behavior, including bigoted, misogynistic, racist, homophobic and transphobic language” with the intent of “bullying” board members, as well as minority and LGBT students.

Written by Mackenzie and Orange County schools superintendent Monique Felder, the resolution praises Black Lives Matter while claiming the aforementioned alleged behavior has caused “emotional and psychological harm” and that harm “has been deepened by White people standing by and applauding, failing to intervene, or even failing to name the racist, bigoted, and threatening behavior.”

An Orange County parent who did not wish to be identified says “the entire goal of the resolution is to paint rightly concerned and outraged parents as extremists.”

The parent wanted to stay anonymous and cited the recent memorandum issued by U.S. Attorney General citing Merrick Garland directing the FBI to investigate school board protest as the reason why. In that same vein, the parent said this [resolution] was a “set-up” by the board to give the FBI an excuse to set up shop and harass parents.

Included in the resolution are comments from students at Orange County High School. The remarks that the students feel “unsafe” knowing a “violent right-wing group” is near their school.

“The Proud Boys, a known homophobic, misogynistic, neo-fascist organization gathered outside my school on Friday night. As a female student, I feel threatened by their gathering and yelling and sign-holding” reads one of the student comments.

North State Journal spoke to the Proud Boys and several parents outside of the Oct. 11 board meeting. Among the crowd were Black Lives Matter activists and some individuals parents said are members of Antifa. One person in the crowd donned a cap with a sickle and hammer on it.

One woman, identified only as “Sarah,” said that those student comments were elicited by board members in specific classrooms. She said the board members prompted the comments after telling students the Proud Boys were had been protesting in the area.

“My point is, the board members took time out of their day to go into this high school classroom, which was an African American Studies classroom, and specifically speak to them about “white nationalist” groups,” Sarah said.

Sarah questioned why the board is taking time to focus on topics like this when “our test scores in our school districts are tanking and they [the board] are focusing on delivering a white racist message to students in a classroom.”  She added, “they’re [the board] creating more racism and thinking it’s going to solve racism.”

“It’s information bias from the get-go,” Sarah said.

Sarah also spoke about porn being found in the libraries in the district and a student reported a question brought up in an English class at the high school the same day as the board meeting.

“The student was surveyed in the class and this was a specific question. Keep in mind, we just discovered porn – homosexual porn – in the high schools,” said Sarah. “And this question was on an English High School survey.”

Sarah said the survey told the students “Radical religious fanatics across the nation are trying to impose their right-wing views by censoring high school library books,” and then asked the students “Do you believe strongly [this is true] or not a claim?”

According to Sarah, the second question involved the statement “only local school board members, not religious leaders or parents, should decide what books are in high school libraries.”

“So, tell me, that we just found porn in our high school libraries and the school is soliciting questions of high school students basically saying that only board members should be able to choose what books are in the library and not parents,” Sarah said.  “That is one of the key points I would like to address the board members on.”

North State Journal also spoke to a man who identified himself as “Bill,” a local Proud Boys leader who confirmed Sarah’s report about the questioning of students. Bill said that a friend’s daughter, who happens to be gay, said they were asked about how they felt about “extremist, right-wing, violent Proud Boys.”

When asked for a reaction to being called “white nationalists” or extremists, Bill said that they are labeled that way “in order to push a narrative and to keep that narrative alive” entities have to produce “propaganda that establishes us as a white nationalist hate group.” He called it “one of the many lies and insults that they cast on us.

A second unidentified Proud Boy, who is Black, interjected, “They cannot beat the strength of an argument… they cannot beat the strength of a conservative argument, alright? They have to create a boogeyman.”

The second member, who did not give his name, said it was a Marxist tactic and that “no parent is going to teach their kid to be racist anywhere in the world.” He went on to say that “every parent wants a better life for their child no matter what color you are” and that Black Lives Matter and Antifa lost that argument and that is why they lie about the Proud Boys.

“Because I stand against the organization BLM, they automatically say that means “well, you’re against Black people,” Bill responded. “Well, we destroy that narrative with all the ethnicities we have in our group. The highest chairman was Afro-Cuban.”

“I’m going with what the agenda is,” said Bill. “And what they put on the agenda and what they actually put in a document [the resolution] that was produced for everyone in Orange County Schools.”

Video taken by North State Journal from inside the meeting shows Bill and at least two other Proud Boys were some of the first to be escorted from the meeting at the direction of Mackenzie.

Outside the meeting, a crowd had gathered and arguments ensued between apparent Black Lives Matter activists, Proud Boys members, and other individuals present.

Video of the incident outside of the school captured remarks by the Proud Boys that Black Lives Matter represents “destroying the family and our republic.” Following those statements, a black man dressed in a suit found himself confronted by Black Lives Matters activists accusing him of supporting what the Proud Boys were saying. The man in the suit is apparently Kenneth Harper, a candidate for U.S. Senate.

“I support the United State of America, that’s what I support!” Harper said.

Prior to the meeting, the Orange County Sheriff’s office issued a Facebook post warning that off-duty deputies had been hired to handle security should a protest occur. The post mentioned a prior protest on Sept. 24 and made the claim “Proud Boys” had shown up to that event.

North State Journal asked the Orange County Sheriff’s Office about the Sept. 24 protest just days after it occurred. The deputy who responded to our request said there was “minimal interaction” with protesters and that they didn’t know the make-up of the attendees.

About A.P. Dillon 512 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_