Local News

Durham School Board Member 'Outraged' After Being Banned From School

Posted January 26, 2005

— A Durham school board member and a parent are banned from entering a local school after being accused of disruptive behavior.

Shepard Middle School Principal Julia Fairley called police Jan. 14 after school-board member Jackie Wagstaff and a Shepard parent, Minnie Brown, refused to leave the school when asked. In a letter, she accuses the women of interrupting class to interrogate students and parents.

Brown was arrested, and Wagstaff left while law enforcement officers figured out whether they could legally remove a school board member from school property.

Four days later, Fairley informed Wagstaff and Brown that they were not allowed on school property without prior written approval. Durham Superintendent Ann Denlinger followed that up with a letter to Wagstaff on Jan. 19.

Wagstaff and a group of parents have been calling for Fairley's ouster since November. They claim Fairley treats black children unfairly. Fairley has denied the accusations, and Denlinger issued a letter supporting the principal.

"I have learned that ... you walked through the school, stopping students and visitors to question them," Denlinger wrote in the letter that's been distributed to board members. "Apparently, you were seeking information and support to promote your efforts to have Ms. Fairley removed as principal."

Denlinger said she hesitated to write the letter, but that Wagstaff's "inappropriate and disruptive" behavior left her no choice. Individual school board members "have no authority to investigate individual school system employees,'' Denlinger wrote. "In fact, it is vital for board members to maintain neutrality as individuals in school disputes."

"She can't tell me where I can be and where I can't be. I'm outraged and I will deal with that," Wagstaff said.

Wagstaff said she is threatening legal action. Plus, she wants the principal and the superintendent fired. The group, Concerned Black Citizens, backs Wagstaff.

"It's inconceivable to me that a board member that someone to attempt to restrict a board member's access to any school," said Delores Eaton, of Concerned Black Citizens.

School board chair Gail Heath disagrees. She told WRAL Wagstaff's actions were, "very disruptive, inappropriate behavior. I don't think we can tolerate."

Brown is due in court Monday on a trespassing charge. Wagstaff said she will be there to support her as a witness. Heath said it is too early to determine whether the school board will take any action.


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