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OCS Board of Education to meet virtually after Proud Boys interrupt session


The Proud Boys gather outside of an Orange County Schools Board of Education meeting on Oct. 11, 2021.
Photo Courtesy of Allison Mahaley. 

Several members of the right-wing Proud Boys group attended the Orange County Schools Board of Education work session on Oct. 11, held at A.L. Stanback Middle School.

Now, future meetings will be virtual until the board determines a different location, Board Chairperson Hillary MacKenzie said in an email. The board had previously held meetings at different schools in the district in order to maintain social distancing, MacKenzie said. 

“Moving forward, we will avoid holding meetings on school campuses to keep those spaces secure and free from disruption to school events, clubs and athletics,” MacKenzie said in an email. 

The Proud Boys have been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“School campuses need to be kept secure from extremist groups,” MacKenzie said in an email.

When the meeting opened for public comment, several speakers used that time to speak on topics unrelated to the agenda items, which violates board policy.

“BLM is an organization founded by Marxists whose number one goal is to destroy America," Bill Whicker, a member of the Proud Boys, said during the public comment period for discussing the Math 180 program.

MacKenzie asked speakers to remain on topic several times during the public comment section. Some of the speakers were asked to leave and escorted to the door after failing to adhere to the agenda topic, MacKenzie said. 

Resolution on incidents of hostile and racist behavior

At the Oct. 11 meeting, the board unanimously passed a resolution to address harm caused to students by incidents of hostile and racist behavior. 

This resolution comes after a Sept. 24 incident in which several members of the Proud Boys gathered outside Orange High School in Hillsborough to protest mask mandates. 

The board declared that it “stands united against all forms of white nationalism and white supremacy,” according to the resolution.

It also announced the district would establish a communication plan to manage future incidents involving hate groups, make students and staff aware of counseling services following incidents involving hate groups and provide ongoing education to staff members on recognizing extremist symbols.

“My hope (is) that by raising awareness of our students’ experiences, our community will rise together to support democracy and inclusive, affirming spaces, as well as to denounce racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and extremism whenever it is encountered in Orange County,” MacKenzie said in an email.

Several students wrote to the board about the Sept. 24 incident. 

“They yelled homophobic slurs, called us communists, yelled comments about race, expelled lies upon lies and expressed their disliking of our Black principal simply for his race,” one student wrote.

Board members took turns reading these statements aloud during the Oct. 11 work session before passing the resolution.

“The thought of an organization known for violence and racism choosing our school to make a statement scares me,” another student wrote.

Other community members spoke to the board during the public comment section about the resolution. One of them was Ali Braswell, an activist and founder of the From Slavery to Stock Market Movement. 

“Evil never dies, and it has raised its degenerate head again in Orange County,” Braswell said. “We have a Black lieutenant governor who supports white supremacists, and now, our white oppressors want to rewrite history even more than it’s already been rewritten to erase their sins.”

In an interview after the meeting, Braswell said she hopes Orange County residents will stand together against racism. 

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“When racism is gut-punching you ... that’s when you absolutely have to come out and really enforce and further those anti-racism activities,” she said. 

MacKenzie shared similar sentiments.

“It’s really important that members of the community educate ourselves about extremism and hate groups,” MacKenzie said in an email. “I encourage community members and elected leaders to speak out clearly against what we are seeing happen in Orange County.” 

Equity plan

During the same meeting, the board provided a detailed description of its equity plan. The plan consists of six goals that aim to make Orange County Schools a place where all students have the resources to excel. 

Dena Keeling, the chief equity officer for OCS, gave a presentation to the board about the need for programs designed to close the achievement gap between students in under-served groups and their peers.

“This year, our key strategy is to research evidence-based instructional models, strategies, school structures and programs that have success eliminating achievement, access and opportunity gaps for African American, Latino, English language learners, economically impacted students and students with disabilities,” Keeling said.

@k8e_mack | @IanWalniuk

@DTHCityState |