Law enforcement officers at Thursday’s Gwinnett County Public School (GCPS) Board meeting arrested two mothers, one on a charge of criminal trespass and another on a charge of obstruction as part of the school’s new security measures.
Both mothers told The Georgia News on Friday they did nothing wrong and that School Resource Officers (SROs) overreacted — to put it mildly.
Karen Pirkle said she displeased GCPS Board members last month by speaking out against COVID-19 mask requirements. She returned for this month’s meeting. GCPS officials told Pirkle she was trespassing.
“Someone came from behind me and jerked my arm up. Mind you, I am a retired deputy sheriff. I know the routine. They were trying to handcuff me, but their handcuffs were in my palm, so they weren’t getting it onto my wrist. And they kept saying I was resisting, which I was not. Then I asked the officers if I could at least give all my stuff to my husband. They said yes,” Pirkle said.
“Brenda, the other lady arrested, came running up and asked ‘Can I take your phone and paperwork to your husband?’ I said ‘I really appreciate it.’ We have never met. This was our first night meeting. She took it and somehow when she was going through the metal detector they found a pair of kindergarten scissors in her bag because she would crochet during the meeting.”
The other woman, Brenda Stewart, said she witnessed law enforcement officers “being rough” and hurting Pirkle.
“I go up to the two metal detectors. There is a security desk there. I set my purse down and said I will get her phone. Then I went through the metal detector, and then I came back. I wasn’t going to stay [at the meeting]. My plan had not been to stay there very long anyway,” Stewart said.
“The SRO had my pair of scissors that were in my purse. She said you cannot take these in. I said OK. I went to take them. But when I went to take them she started pulling, and she went nuts and ended up slamming me against the wall, putting handcuffs on me.”
Stewart said she had spoken out against Critical Race Theory at a previous school board meeting.
Both women said GCPS officials kept them handcuffed for at least an hour. Law enforcement officers later transported the women to the county jail and processed them.
GCPS spokesman Sloan Roach told The Star News via email Friday that school officials have added safety measures “to provide a safe and secure environment for everyone.”
“While there were some parents who stated opposition to the added security measures, other parents and visitors expressed appreciation for the efforts the school district is taking to ensure a safe and orderly meeting,” Roach said.
“As a district, we remain committed to working with our parents and community to address the needs of our students and school district.”
Pirkle said she prayed for guidance before she tried to attend Thursday’s meeting.
“Schools are in such dire situations security-wise that they can have two metal detectors,” Pirkle said.
“But some board members are scared for their lives from a heavy-set white female who won’t wear a mask.”
Stewart said the SROs bruised her. She said she wants to see a body cam video of what the SROs did to her.
“I’m shell-shocked,” Stewart said.
“People across the country should be very scared that a suburban mom with a pair of child scissors can be thrown against the wall and arrested in a matter of seconds. There is a narrative being formed, and it goes back to this whole [labeling parents as] domestic terrorists.”
Pirkle, meanwhile, said she is fighting on behalf of blue collar parents who work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“This is not just about my child. This is about their child. I know that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable saying stuff,” Pirkle said.
“I don’t back down once I’m crossed like this.”
– – –