Local News

Schools' Rules for Speakers Irk Some, Including Sheriff

Posted February 22, 2008 6:13 p.m. EST
Updated February 23, 2008 6:44 a.m. EST

Wake County Public School System

— At least two public officials said they feel insulted by a new Wake County school system policy to limit what invited speakers say in area classrooms.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison and Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly said they have refused to sign a waiver that the school district requires of all outside speakers.

The waiver was devised last year after an Enloe High School teacher invited an anti-Muslim speaker to his class. The speaker handed out pamphlets entitled, "Why Women Should Not Marry Muslims."

The guidelines in the waiver cover subject matter, behavior and appearance, and speakers must agree not to denigrate other cultures, races or religions.

"Who wouldn't want more accountability and more structure?" school district spokesman Michael Evans said. "It allows guest speakers coming into the class to know what's expected of them."

Harrison said he understands the intent of the policy, but he said it should be used on a case-by-case basis.

"I am offended by it. I'm an elected official. I'm not going to sign it," he said.

Evans said Wake schools officials have received very few complaints about the policy.

"You would love to be able to say common sense prevails for everyone. But your common sense and mine don't always align, and that's where we get into the problems I think we ran into in the past."

Robert Escamilla, the Enloe High teacher, was reassigned to an alternative school after parents complained about the anti-Muslim speaker. He sued the district in November, alleging his rights were violated and demanding that the transfer be rescinded. That case is pending.