CARMEL, Ind. — The Carmel Clay School Board is moving all meetings virtual for the foreseeable future. In a statement, the school system said it’s making the move after “disruptive behavior” at the last board meeting.
“An outside group deliberately orchestrated multiple disruptions to the business portion of the meeting Monday night. When the Board called for a recess, the group booed, began name-calling, and continued their rude and inappropriate behavior.”
The Carmel Clay School Board had already restricted public comment after what the superintendent called another volatile meeting where a handgun was dropped on the floor in July.
Some parents support the board’s decision after seeing what they called interruptions the board has endured.
Kellie Davis and Eric Kouka both have kids in Carmel Clay Schools. They were at the board meeting Monday night and said the decision to go virtual makes sense.
”I feel it is perfectly justified and warranted,” Kouka said.
”When you are there in person and you see what the school board is up against when they are simply just trying to do their job, it makes perfect sense to me that they’ve decided to pivot to a virtual platform for the time being,” Davis said.
Other parents are frustrated by the move to virtual and feel like they are being silenced.
“They have chosen to shut concerned parents down,” said former Carmel Clay Schools parent Kelly Moulton. Moulton said she decided to pull her child out of Carmel High School because she did not like the direction the school system was going.
Genevieve Lenard, a parent who has two kids in Carmel Clay Schools, shares Moulton’s concerns. Lenard said the outbursts on Monday were a result of parents being shut out by the board.
“People are going to be upset and they’re going to do things like have little outbursts, we can call it a little tantrum,” Lenard said. “People are mad and they want to be heard.”
After calling a recess on Monday, the school board returned and continued the meeting and allowed public comment, despite saying they would not earlier.
“Claims that the Board and administrators were trying to silence parents were remarkably unfounded given the evening’s agenda contained four opportunities for public comments,” said Carmel Clay Schools in its statement.
But, Moulton said their comments fall on deaf ears.
“You can stand up and speak during the public comment portion but it’s like you are talking to a wall,” she said.
Moulton, Lenard, and other parents who are also upset with the board’s latest decision have shared concerns in the past about falling test scores, sexually explicit books in school libraries, and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
“We really do need to go back to the basic, really core curriculum and stop with all of this social justice and all of the politics,” Lenard said.
Both Lenard and Moulton called DEI programs a distraction and a reason behind falling test scores.
But, Davis disagrees. She said the DEI programs help make students more well-rounded.
“I hope they would take a closer look at what is actually going on in the school,” Davis said. “They would see DEI initiatives and SEL initiatives only serve to make our children’s education more excellent.”
At a meeting earlier this year, several people stood up and read aloud to board members from sexually explicit books that could be found in school libraries. This was also the meeting where a handgun fell out of a person’s pocket.
After this meeting, the school board went to no public comment as Carmel Clay Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Beresford said they had had trouble with public comment and called recent crowds “volatile.”
Lenard and Moulton said this is not the time for the school board to go virtual and reduce parent input, instead, they should be increasing public comment.
“Let’s get all of these people in a room and let’s actually have some sort of a roundtable,” said Lenard.
Kouka said he agrees but civility needs to be restored at these meetings.
”My hope is that things can deescalate,” Kouka said. “I would really like for both sides to sit down and have a conversation.”
We reached out to Carmel Clay Schools for an interview but were told no board members were available.
You can read the full statement from Carmel Clay Schools here.