Georgia Senate Passes Bill Protecting Parent Protestors

The Georgia State Senate Wednesday passed a bill that would protect parents’ right to protest their local school boards.

SB 588 “provide[s] that all meetings of local boards of education shall be open to the public except as otherwise provided by law …” and “provide[s] that members of the public shall not be removed from such public meetings except for actual disruption and in accordance with rules adopted and published by the local board of education.”

All over the country, conservative parents have been protesting their local school boards over various issues, but mostly over mask mandates and Critical Race Theory (CRT) curriculum.

Karen Pirkle is one of them.

She is a mother and resident of Gwinnett County who – along with a former sheriff’s deputy – has twice been arrested at Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) board meetings while protesting mask mandates.

“I applaud the Senate and pray that the House will pass this bill,” Pirkle told The Georgia Star News Thursday. “It would allow parents to speak freely without revenge, such as criminal trespasses and arrests. It solidifies the constitutional rights our forefathers gave us. Our school boards need to understand parents are going to be involved, and need to be heard.  I thank our legislature representatives, especially Butch Miller and Clint Dixon for leading the charge, and for listening to their constituents.”

Pirkle was first arrested in October when School Resource Officers (SROs) claimed she and another mom, Brenda Stewart, failed to follow security protocols at a school board meeting. That security, according to Pirkle, is an intimidation tactic.

It is a blatant attempt to violate the First Amendment rights of parents. Fear is being used to silence us. It is fundamentally wrong,” she previously told The Star. “We currently have about 75 to 100 visitors at school board meetings, so basically one staff member for every two or three citizens. It is insane.”

After her first arrest, the school claims she was issued a no-trespass order.

But the day of her second arrest in February, she had signed up to speak before the board and was granted permission. Still, she was arrested when she entered school property.

The school claimed that it made a mistake in allowing Pirkle to register to speak, but said it corrected its error before the meeting.

“At approximately 1:40 p.m. on February 24, Mrs. Pirkle received a phone call from the district’s Executive Director of Policy and Administration alerting her of this error and reminding her that she was not allowed on the property due to the current trespass warning and that she could not attend the meeting in person,” GCPS spokeswoman Sloan Roach said. “During that call, she stated she had permission to attend and would be there at 7 p.m. She then disconnected the call.”

Pirkle has since removed her child from the school system.

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Pete D’Abrosca is a reporter at The Georgia Star News and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Parent Protesters” by KOMUnews. CC BY 2.0.



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