The Orange County Board of County Commissioners continued discussion on an ordinance that would regulate gatherings on and near school property and public playgrounds during its meeting business Monday.
This ordinance is the result of a gathering of Proud Boys protesting mask mandates at Orange High School on Sept. 24 of last year. It was last discussed at the board’s meeting on June 21when a vote on the ordinance was delayed until October.
County Attorney John Roberts said the ordinance was proposed last fall. The board has gathered information and reviewed several iterations of the draft ordinance during meetings throughout this year.
Roberts said the board has received numerous emails saying the ordinance would unconstitutionally restrict speech.
“Every right guaranteed in the Bill of Rights is subject to reasonable restriction,” Roberts said. “Every one – including freedom of speech.”
He said protests are not currently allowed on school property and the ordinance will extend a buffer around school grounds. Roberts recommended a 50-foot buffer from all school property entrances.
“This does not do anything that the school boards cannot currently do other than extend a restriction out into the public right of way,” Roberts said.
Patrick Abele, deputy superintendent of Orange County Schools, said he would like to see modifications to the regulation. Abele requested that the right-of-way beside roads in front of schools be the standard instead of the 50-foot buffer recommended by Roberts.
“What we would propose would be a consistent ordinance for all campus property that would limit and prohibit any gatherings, any protests or any demonstrations in those DOT right-of-way areas from the school property,” Abele said.