School Board chair explains why they are removing people from the audience

Deputies remove woman from NHC School Board meeting
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The New Hanover County School Board Chair is having to crack down on people who exceed their time limit to talk during the public comment portion of school board meetings. Tuesday night, a woman who repeatedly voiced critical comments about the school board was removed from the meeting by deputies. It’s at least the second time Natosha Tew has been kicked out of a school board meeting after going over the two minute time limit.

Tew had been speaking for two minutes and three seconds when School Board Chair Stephanie Kraybill tried to cut her off.

“Ms. Tew, your time is up,” Kraybill said over Tew’s comments about the number of people she claimed had died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. She also called the CDC, the FDA, and the NIH “corrupt” during her comments, challenging the school’s previous mask mandate.

Kraybill tried to stop Tew from talking three more times over the next eleven seconds, before calling on officers to remove her from the room. Tew said she would take her seat, and was in her chair 20 seconds later. But Kraybill still insisted that she leave.

Kraybill said in recent years, the increased vitriol from some audience members has made it difficult for the board to conduct business, so they’ve had to get very strict when it comes to maintaining decorum. In addition, school board meetings often last five to six hours, so public comments are limited to an hour, and individual speakers are limited to two or three minutes depending on how many people have asked to speak.

“I watch the time, and when their time is up, at the zero I say, ‘Time is up.’ And most people sit down. Some people will finish a sentence. Fine. And then go and sit down. Sometimes they’ll still keep on talking so I give them just another couple seconds, because you have to be fair and consistent, because you can’t let some people finish a whole paragraph and some people finish two lines,” Kraybill stated when asked about enforcing the policy.

“I really feel like there’s no one listening to me on that board. Made me feel like they don’t really care. And I wonder why they got voted into place,” Tew said in frustration to reporters after being escorted out of the meeting.

Kraybill explained that under the school board’s bylaws, board members are not allowed to respond to members of the public who have asked to speak. She said they are simply there to listen, but she understands the dynamic can give some speakers the impression they don’t care. Kraybill dislikes the personal attacks that the board often receives from members of the audience, saying it’s rude and not productive.

In addition to her role as a parent, Tew is also an employee of the City of Wilmington, serving as the Emergency Management Coordinator for the Wilmington Fire Department. Some have questioned her public criticism of mask mandates and federal agencies in light of her role in emergency management, especially since she’s had to be escorted out of the meetings by deputies. When asked about those concerns, the City of Wilmington provided the following response:

“We are aware of the incidents. We want to be clear that Natosha’s comments were made in her capacity as a private citizen. She was not speaking for or on behalf of the City of Wilmington. At this time, that’s all we can provide.”

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