NACS board stops public comments at its meetings amid ‘safety concerns’

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The Northwest Allen County Schools board has paused the public comment period of its regular meetings “due to safety concerns.”

The district said Thursday it was “pausing” public comment at board meetings “pending the assessment, design and implementation of an enhanced safety plan for its meetings due to safety concerns reported to the Board by the Allen County Police Department.”

The NACS board, like other school boards around the country, has come under fire by parents protesting mask mandates as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. In late August, the NACS board voted to reinstate its mask mandate amid surging COVID cases in the district and hundreds of students in quarantine.

Capt. Steve Stone, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department, said the board meetings had been “contentious” and parents were arguing in the parking lot. The department’s school resource officers suggested “something needed to be done” to keep students and meeting attendees safe, Stone said.

He added that no laws had been violated or investigations initiated, and no direct threats had been made.

“It was not our advice, opinion, or decision to stop taking public questions or feedback,” Stone said.

Indiana’s Open Door Law does not require school boards to offer public comment periods at meetings.

The board planned to resume public comment “when it is confident that public comment can occur in a safe manner.”

“Northwest Allen County Schools believes in providing a healthy and safe learning environment that engages, supports and challenges each learner in a culture of achievement and excellence,” the district wrote in a news release Thursday.

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