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Virginia Beach School Board leaders cracking down on conduct at meetings, issue warnings to parents

Chairwoman Carolyn Rye and Chief of Staff Dr. Donald Robertson sent out two letters to parents about their behavior at the August 10 and July 20 meetings.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia Beach School Division leaders are making it known they won’t put up with disruptive behavior at future school board meetings.

They sent two warning letters to parents after a disorderly school board meeting last week.

13News Now got a look at the letters.

A heated debate over wearing masks took center stage at the Virginia Beach School Board meeting last week. During hours of public comment, several speakers shouted, talked over their allotted time, and interrupted other speakers.

Now division leaders are cracking down on conduct.

Chairwoman Carolyn Rye and Chief of Staff Dr. Donald Robertson sent out two letters to parents about their behavior at the August 10 and July 20 meetings.

One letter claims a woman made an offensive gesture and cussed at the board, the other says a woman repeatedly yelled, “Arrest me, arrest me, America’s watching,” during meetings.

In both letters, Rye said the conduct displayed is a violation of the decorum and rules set in the division’s bylaws, and the women could get banned if their disruptive behaviors continue.

Rye couldn’t talk to us about the letters but said as board chair she must make sure the board can conduct business and allow citizens to be heard.

“Maintain civility, that is both our goal and our plea because we do firmly believe that is what most of our citizens expect,” Rye said.

VBCPS parent Annie Palumbo received one of the letters. She said her speech got passionate because she feels strongly about parent choice when it comes to masking.

“Yes, it makes me mad when a governing body is trying to tell me what to put on my kid,” Palumbo said. “Vaccines are next. They don’t get to do that, that is my kid.”

She said she believes the warning letter is meant to silence her.

“I am not going to apologize, and for them to bully me with that letter, it didn’t scare me,” Palumbo said. “I have first amendment rights. I got passionate, but I not going to stand down for how angry I got.”

The division now lists the school board meeting rules and what is considered disruptive conduct at the top of their agenda instead of the bottom.

The Virginia Beach School Board meets again on August 24.