Wake County Schools

Former Wake schools chair calls for punishment of protesters

Posted December 18, 2011
Updated December 19, 2011

— Former Wake County Board of Education Chairman Ron Margiotta says four people arrested in a protest at a school board meeting last year need to be punished.

Margiotta, who held the District 8 seat for eight years before losing his re-election bid in October, said demonstrators used "extreme and intimidating tactics" that "deliberately created chaos and fear" in a letter sent to WRAL News Sunday.

North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber, Duke professor Timothy Tyson and two other protesters were arrested in June 2010 for staging a sit-in at a board meeting to express opposition to the board's decision to stop busing students to achieve socioeconomic diversity across all district schools. 

Margiotta wrote the letter in response to a Dec. 10 editorial in a local newspaper that praised Tyson's use of the principle of civil disobedience and his willingness to accept the consequences of the trespassing charges he faces as a result of his arrest.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has expressed his intention to pursue mediation in the cases against the protesters, which Margiotta called "a simple slap on the wrist."

"(Their actions) were not simple acts of civil disobedience or disruption. These individuals shut down the public's business, refused to leave the podium, used offensive language and ultimately crossed security barriers to physically take over the seats of the elected school board members," he wrote.

"The safety of the board, as well as those in the audience, was threatened."

In an interview Monday, he said the protesters crossed the line of civil disobedience and need to be punished.

Former Wake school board chairman Ron Margiotta Margiotta has few regrets about school board actions

"You just can't let it get out of hand, or we have anarchy," he said. "I certainly don't want to see anyone go to jail for this offense. That doesn't seem to make sense. However, I would like to see them found guilty."

Tyson called Margiotta's letter a "grumpy, evasive and ideologically driven" tirade.

He said he joined the other protesters in an act of civil disobedience because he felt that the changes in student assignment at Wake County schools could result in high-poverty schools and re-segregation. 

"We felt that protecting North Carolina's public schools was an urgent moral issue," he said.

He also took issue with Margiotta's characterization of the June sit-in.

"We sang hymns and prayed. Unless prayer offends you, there was no 'offensive language,'" he said. "No one, not even Mr. Margiotta, was afraid of us."

Ultimately, Tyson said he will accept any judgment the court makes.

"We never asked any favors of the court," he said. "We certainly never asked anything of Ron Margiotta, who has no authority in this matter."

Margiotta said he believes the rhetoric fueled by the protests overshadowed the positive work the board did in creating a new student assignment plan and preserving teaching jobs during a tough budget year. That likely cost him his seat in the election and created another shift in the balance of power on the school board.

"The public supported our positions, but they did not appreciate the turmoil. It didn't matter who was creating it," he said.

Wake County school board chairman Ron Margiotta Web only: Margiotta discusses Wake schools

Discussions among the new majority prior to taking their seats in 2009 and making big changes on their first day in office played into that, he said.

"We might have done things differently. Processes is what you could object to – processes that we used," he said.

Still, Margiotta said he doesn't regret the board's actions, especially in restructuring student assignment.

"As much as I say it would have been an improvement to do things differently, I don't think the job would have ever happened," he said.

He said he doesn't plan to seek another elected office but would remain active in education issues.


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  • taylor81 Dec 21, 2011

    Rico - If you truly believe that all teachers do is "talk about each other in the conference room and spread rumors all day" then I invite, lo challenge, you to apply for a job with WCPSS. Come and work as a teacher (your choice of grade) for one year. It should be pretty easy, right? I'm guessing you believe that the paycheck is more than adequate, and if all you have to do is talk about others in the conference room, it should certainly be easy money. Once you start your teaching assignment, please let me know. As a taxpayer, I am anxious to come and see your classroom, and how you will revolutionize education for all of those teachers who aren't really doing anything all day.

  • randow23 Dec 20, 2011

    We need to focus on the real issue..Teachers here in NC should be held accountable for failing the parents..something happens in school and its always the parents fault: What do teachers really do at school besides talk about each other in the conference room and spread rumors all day.

    Rico, After retirement from a non public school job I filled in for three months in an elementary school.They work their b*tts off each day from opening past closing. A good part of their time is spent dealing with behavior problems the parents won't address.

  • LBJ192 Dec 20, 2011

    "And to be honest, if you looked, annually, at the movement of student numbers from School A to School B, then School B moves almost identical numbers of students to School C, that has nothing to do with growth, absolutely had everything to do with diversity.

    You could watch it happen annually."

    Just be honest, you have no idea why. Did you research to find if any new neighborhoods that were built that may have required a shift in students?

  • LBJ192 Dec 20, 2011

    "can explain to me why my elementary bus route took nothing but young mexican children all the way past 3 other closer schools to take them from Fuquay to Willow Springs?

    Busing for diversity. Not capacity."

    Maybe they came in during the school year and the other schools were already at capacity. Now you know a reason. Instead of assuming diversity busing, maybe you should check it out.

  • LBJ192 Dec 20, 2011

    Ron, you are out by the majority vote. We don't need to hear from you anymore. If this was such a big deal for you, why wait til now to say anything? Just another opp to stay in the public eye?

  • Rico Dec 20, 2011

    We need to focus on the real issue..Teachers here in NC should be held accountable for failing the parents..something happens in school and its always the parents fault: What do teachers really do at school besides talk about each other in the conference room and spread rumors all day.

  • geosol Dec 20, 2011

    But of course Mr. New Jersey and the rest of the ignorant REPUBLICANS had no such problems when their little tea party whackos organized disruptive protests at town hall meetings across the country. Hypocrites. REMEMBER IN 2012, and VOTE AGAINST ALL REPUBLICANS!!!!

  • warbirdlover Dec 20, 2011

    I sure glad I live in Moore County. The worst thing they have done is shut down the highest acheving school in the county (Acadamy Hights Elementry). We only have 3 High Schools, Pinecrest, Union Pines and North Moore.

  • jasonconaway6969 Dec 19, 2011

    @Grandpeople..thank You!

  • Screw WrAl Dec 19, 2011

    miseem, just wait until your fog lifts and you can see clearly. Oh you're going to love what they are about to do.