A parent from Sarasota County, Florida, was recently kicked out of a school board meeting for an unusual reason. Police officers surrounded Melissa Bakondy and then ejected her from the meeting for what she was “about to say.”
After the ejection, Bakondy accused the board’s liberal majority of “destroying our school district, targeting parents and eliminating dissent.”
The mother of four was encircled by the officers and ejected from the Sarasota County School Board meeting after confronting a board member, calling her out by name over comments she had allegedly made in a previous meeting.
Bakondy spoke at the board meeting, saying, “At the last meeting, Shirley Brown was caught on the microphone,” before she was cut off.
“Stop talking about school board members,” interrupted Chairwoman Jane Goodwin. “You cannot go and expound on school board members. I’ve warned you several times.”
When Bakondy questioned why she could not speak, Goodwin replied, “You were about to say something horrible about Shirley Brown. You’ve said things about me that were untrue. Leave, please.”
“Do you have children in our school district?” Goodwin then asked Bakondy.
Goodwin’s question prompted an audible gasp from a fellow board member, conservative Bridget Ziegler.
Ziegler fired back, saying, “That is not appropriate. You don’t get to ask people who come to a public meeting whether they have children or not. Period. You are way out of line.”
Florida Republican Vice Chairman Christian Ziegler, board member Ziegler’s husband, posted part of the exchange on Twitter, bringing the conversation to the public’s attention on a much larger stage.
During an interview, Bakondy slammed Goodwin, calling her “the queen of no public input.”
Ziegler and Bakondy claim that two other liberal board members and Goodwin are focused on shutting down the First Amendment rights of parents.
“Every citizen, taxpayer, and parent has a right to speak at public meetings and share their input,” said Bakondy.
“Ms. Goodwin doesn’t want to hear that. — This is the ultimate form of censorship, and they are destroying our school district, targeting parents, and eliminating dissent.”
Bakondy continued, “I do have four children, and three of them will be going back to public school next year, and after this, I worry that they’re a target.”
Ziegler and Bakondy point out that a 3-2 vote approved new public comment restrictions in March after months of debate.
The new restrictions reduced the time for public comment from three to two minutes at board meetings. Comments were also limited to one hour per meeting with an option for extension with public comments on non-agenda items now limited to the end of the session.
Ziegler and fellow conservative board member Karen Rose voted against the new rules and said the board “spent four or five months, maybe more, on various reiterations of how to amend the public comment policy.
“If that doesn’t illustrate how out of touch their role is and what their job is to serve the public, I don’t know what is.”
Ziegler also said that Goodwin’s questioning of Bakondy over whether or not she is a parent was “inappropriate.”
“We work for the people. The people are our bosses. The parents are our customers. And it’s interesting when it comes to collecting taxes; it doesn’t seem like these qualifying questions are asked,” said Ziegler.
“[Taxpayers] pay our salaries; they pay the money to run and operate the entire district and educate our students, and for them to be met with disdain and in such a hostile way is disgusting and very frustrating.”
This year, Ziegler is running for re-election and emphasized that “out of touch, power-hungry, oftentimes very progressive, liberals” have “overtaken school boards.” She said that “grotesque” incidents like this will impact upcoming elections on local, state, and national levels.
Following Bakondy’s ejection from the meeting, the board took a short recess. During the recess, Goodwin was overheard saying, “I know that you’re running for school board [inaudible].” According to Ziegler, Goodwin accused her of trying to score political points with voters with her criticism.
“I have yet to ever use the dais for a political purpose in any manner, yet I could give you countless examples, and that is just one more that they think things through much more of a political lens versus a policy and public service lens,” said Ziegler.