CHEYENNE – The Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees shut down public comment early Monday night after a resident began yelling at trustees and refused to give up the mic when his allotted public comment period was over.
Although there were more members of the community who wished to address the school board, trustees called the meeting off due to the disruption.
LCSD1 Board Vice Chair Marguerite Herman said they welcome all public input from stakeholders, including by email and phone, but they set meeting parameters so nothing gets in the way of carrying out district business they were elected to do.
“Obviously, politics come into the boardroom, and we have to resist that temptation to get distracted from that singular duty we have to the children,” Herman said, speaking for herself, and not the entire board.
The board reserves the right, outlined in state statutes, to call recess on any public meeting that has become disruptive, and they exercised that right Monday – as the Natrona County commissioners did last year when a heckling crowd inhibited a meeting related to COVID-19 from moving forward.
The first three general public comments Monday were related to masks in schools – a conversation which is still ongoing – before the disruption came from a comment related to both critical race theory and the length of public comments, which are capped at three minutes so that everyone has a chance to speak.
(A California court upheld in 2018 that the three-minute time limits on public comments during meetings are constitutional, and it is a practice that is also followed by the Cheyenne City Council.)
“(The) First Amendment guarantees me the right to speak. You guys haven’t presented any evidence whatsoever that says that we’re going to be two to three minutes,” the unidentified man said, also noting his anger at the fact that the board asked in-person attendees not to clap after comments.
He later continued, “This is how a dictatorship is.”
When his time was nearing the three-minute mark, the man began yelling louder and louder, especially when told his time was up, and the school board members called the meeting and vacated the dias. Some people in the room clapped in approval, while others voiced their displeasure at the occurrence.
In his comment, the man also accused the school board of lying to the public, saying that critical race theory is being taught to students and pointing to the Wit and Wisdom curriculum, which is described as an “English language arts curriculum.” Administrators have repeatedly said that critical race theory is not a part of the LCSD1 curriculum.
“Everything in our curriculum meets the standards set by the State Board of Education,” Herman added.
Todd Reynolds was one of the residents who took issue with the man’s interruptions, writing a letter to the WTE editor after the meeting.
“The Board was right to go on recess. They have more important things to deal with than the performative theater of the purposefully uninformed,” Reynolds wrote. “For example, they need to explain to the public how they will incorporate CDC guidelines, what happens when an unmasked class is exposed through close contact, whether they will require teachers to be vaccinated, and how they are going to adequately communicate with the public about testing and positive results.
“But, instead, the Board had to recess because a self-appointed few believe that their misinformation was more important than our children’s health.”