May 6, 2022 - Politics

Sarasota school board meetings contend with chaos

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sarasota School Board meetings have gotten out of control.

  • Lately, it's catcalls over collegiality and more heckling than handshakes as typically boring meetings erupt into shouting matches.
  • Citizens are using schoolyard taunts, lobbing criminal accusations at board members and reading sexually explicit passages from library books out loud.

Driving the news: The board's vice-chair ejected the entire audience Wednesday when he couldn't call the crowd to order after two recesses.

Context: The recent kerfuffle follows a meeting on April 19 when the board chair ordered police to remove a critic who would not stop talking.

  • That move compelled the county sheriff to release a video saying his deputies would never infringe on a citizen's right to free speech β€” a swipe at the school board.

Yes, but: School board members say efficiently handling business is next to impossible with so many disruptions.

  • "There is no place on the agenda that says the public can start yelling at the board and interrupting the meeting," warned vice chairman Tom Edwards before ending this week's meeting.

The big picture: The parental revolution sweeping the country and scrambling political maps is on full display in Sarasota, as citizens blast mask requirements, Critical race theory and socialism.

  • One woman used her time during the public comment portion of the meeting to say a prayer. One man sarcastically apologized that his son was white.

What they're saying: "As citizens of this great country, we enjoy First Amendment freedoms," Dan DeLeo, board counsel, told the crowd. "But there is no First Amendment right to disrupt a meeting."

What Florida law says: The board chair can evict any person from public meetings for "interfering with the expeditious or orderly process" after a warning. Law enforcement must remove them.

The bottom line: Let's hope the kids aren't watching this.


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