MOU bans signage at CCSD board meetings

Published 9:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2023

At Wednesday’s Chambers County School board meeting, the board enforced a new policy banning placards or signage within the board room, as agreed upon in a memorandum of understanding between the board and the city of LaFayette. 

Protesters were told they could stay, but any signage or posters would have to go because they were disruptive to business. Unite CEO Dr. Travis Smith and other protesters with LaFayette Teachers Against Displacement argued during the meeting that it was their constitutional right to have a silent protest with signs. Wednesday night’s meeting was the third consecutive meeting where the board dealt with protestors. 

Smith and L-TAD members have been protesting at the school board meeting over the chosen site location for the county’s consolidated high school and the school district’s leadership decisions throughout the desegregation case. 

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The memorandum, which the VTN requested from the school board and the city of LaFayette, states that both parties agree to prevent disruption of official board business. It also prohibits chanting or sitting on the floor within the board room and protesting at the door, instead requiring protesters to stand on the second landing on the hill by the road.

“I can’t arrest people. I can’t ask people. I’m not going to remove people from a building. That’s not my job,” said Superintendent Casey Chambley, following Wednesday’s school board meeting. “When people are disorderly, that’s what law enforcement is for. They are our law enforcement in the jurisdiction. So that’s who we have to lean on to uphold the statutes in the law.” 

Chambley said he met with LaFayette Police Chief George Rampey, Mayor Kenneth Vines, City Attorney Joseph Tucker and Finch on Tuesday to agree on the new policy with a memorandum of understanding. 

The MOU was then written and signed Wednesday by Chambley, Vines and Tucker. 

When the VTN reached out, Rampey gave no comment on the meeting or agreement. Vines directed all questions from the VTN to Tucker.

According to the memorandum, the city’s police are required to ensure citizens leave placards or signs outside of the board room and remove citizens from the board room who chant or sit on the floor. 

It also requires law enforcement to remove “those individuals from the Board room, from the adjoining foyer and from the area immediately outside the Board room to a location on the first landing of steps going up the hill toward the street from the Board room as marked by the board.”

“There the citizens can peacefully protest, hold placards, and chant if they wish as long as said activities do not disrupt the orderly business of the board, including harassment of any board member or attendee of the meeting, before, during or after the meeting,” the memorandum stated. 

The board used barriers from the Inspire Academy Greenpower racing team program to designate the area on the hill where protesters are allowed. 

“The attorney and the mayor with the police chief agreed and determined where that area would be,” Chambley said. “We walked out, looked at it and set that up. And they asked if we would mark that off, and that’s what we did.”

Under the MOU, LaFayette PD is required to prevent individuals from lining the sidewalk that leads from the parking lot on either side of the building to the board office front door, which board members have to pass through for the meeting.