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Wake Mayors: Schools' Speaker Policy 'Condescending'

Posted February 28, 2008

— A Wake County school system policy requiring outside school speakers to abide by certain requirements is condescending and insulting, several area mayors said Thursday.

It was a topic part of a broader closed-door meeting between Board of Education Chairwoman Rosa Gill and local mayors who gathered to discuss how municipalities can be more involved with the school system, including land acquisition and other issues.

"We are elected officials, and we're accountable to the citizens that elected us," Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said. "So being asked to sign a policy saying you won't do anything derogatory or demeaning is a little insulting, because you can't do that anyway from your position."

Other Wake County public officials have expressed similar feelings about the policy, which requires speakers to sign a waiver agreeing to guidelines on subject matter, behavior and appearance.

Sheriff Donnie Harrison, and Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly, have in the past refused to sign the waiver.

"I found it ironic that our sheriff was asked to sign that form," Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears said. "It just blew my mind."

The policy was put in place last year after former Enloe High School teacher Robert Escamilla invited a speaker who handed out literature unfavorable to Islam, and parents complained.

"It this an overreaction to Enloe? I think so, personally," Sears said. "Is there a better way to do it? I think so, personally."

Gill disagrees and said the policy has nothing to do with the Enloe situation and defends it as a method to help protect students and to have a standard with which all speakers must comply.

"We want to make sure the information being provided to our children is of a standard and that it does not offend any cultural or religious group," Gill said. "I don't think it was an overreaction. I think it was just a matter of putting policy in place to safeguard our kids."

The mayors want the policy rewritten, or amended, but they don't want exemptions.

"I can understand that they're trying to protect the children," Wake Forest Vivian Jones said. "I think that the tone of the policy is insulting and demeaning for anyone."

"If you give exceptions or exemptions to elected officials, it's not fair to them," Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said. "Everybody needs to be on the same playing field."

Weatherly, who has written the school system expressing concerns, said he wants the issue brought before the school board for public discussion.

"I told them I would be more than happy to take this back to the board and that we discuss it with administration and see what we can do to improve it," Gill said.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker was not part of Thursday's meeting. He was out of town.

Escamilla, who was reassigned to an alternative school, has sued the school system, alleging his rights were violated and demanding that the transfer be rescinded. That case is pending.


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  • teach4er Feb 28, 2008

    Does anyone think it is a conflict for Charles Meeker's wife to be on the school board? No wonder he was out of town.

  • shep8851 Feb 28, 2008

    Have we become so politically correct that the school system censor both comments and people before they ever get inside a school??? God help us...

  • meta4csw Feb 28, 2008

    If a speaker has to be invited by faculty, and a teacher would issue the invite based on knowing the content of the presentation (otherwise one wouldn't know it would be in keeping with lesson plans and curriculum) why is it not the teacher's responsibility primarily, as it was in the Enloe case? It's not guests who need to abide by school policy but teachers, who are in the best position to understand what it is.

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxx Feb 28, 2008

    "I think it was just a matter of putting policy in place to safeguard our kids."

    Safeguard them from what - other people's opinions besides the WCPSS? We wouldn't want that because then they might learn to think for themselves!

  • Through a glass darkly Feb 28, 2008

    Who didn't expect politicians to be upset about being asked to be like any other citizen? After all, they have a higher calling.

    That said, it is easy enough to fix. Write all the rules down and ask speaker to sign a statement saying they have read the rules and understand them (like the various privacy statements you read & sign for doctors). If they break the rules, then take away their "speaker rights".

    I've presented various things to classes from preschool classes up to high school. I would have no problem signing such a statement -- of course, I'm not so easily offended that I would have been bothered by the current 'promise'.

  • Freakazoid Feb 28, 2008

    "typical hypocritical reactions, the same people complaining about this policy would be the first to cry to the school system if a speaker said something that didn't agree with their religion or political leanings. It is fine if you are preaching to their choir, just don't preach against it.

    I most heartily agree!!

  • mgratk Feb 28, 2008

    Personally, I think it might be a good idea to bring in speakers who challenge the students and their views. Speakers who may insult their views or the views of others. Maybe then they will learn to THINK, and to critically analyze arguments. Wouldn't that be something?!

  • RTPMedic Feb 28, 2008

    "To somehow insinuate that they (mayors, sheriffs, etc) are of better moral character than any other average Joe who might be invited to speak is laughable."

    I would hope that these people do represent 'a cut above' the average Joe. They are the elected officials that we choose to represent us. I wouldn't sign it either.

  • RTPMedic Feb 28, 2008

    "Gill disagrees and said the policy has nothing to do with the Enloe situation and defends it as a method to help protect students and to have a standard with which all speakers must comply."

    OK, quick! Someone rub the STOOPID sign off my forehead!

    Once again, the Wake Skool Board not only over-stepping their bounds, but they are proving that very few, if any, of them have the commonsense to come in out of the rain. And Ms. Gill must think that the community is too stupid to see through their agenda.
    I think the best way to 'protect the students' is to throw this crowd out on their ear.

  • freddie cadetti 72 Feb 28, 2008

    This was all precipitated because a Christian spoke the truth about the muslim faith. If it had been reversed, it would be deemed "culturally enlightening" by the school board as well as the local politically correct community. I've heard this man speak, and I am not a religous fanatic, just one who is keenly aware of how political correctness is destroying our sense of values...values the founders of this great nation had when writing the constitution and bringing this country the true core values it needs to sustain itself. History will prove these things to be true.