Hamilton Southeastern Schools board meeting turns contentious while discussing library board appointment

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The July 28 Hamilton Southeastern Schools board meeting turned contentious when an agenda item about an appointment to the library board led to heated public comments about the appropriateness of books in the library, a 20-minute recess and suspension of public comments when the meeting resumed. 

We are Brian Meyer, the current HSE appointment to the library board, has served in that capacity for 12 years and is nearing the end of his term, although he is open to serving another. 

After Meyer addressed the board, the school board opened the floor for public comment. Board President Janet Pritchett had previously said that comments should focus exclusively on the qualifications of an appointee to the library board and not address specific books, movies or periodicals in the library. 

Some members of the public disagreed, saying that the subject matter of the books in the library was relevant in the discussion. They attempted to interject discussion of particular books into their public comments. 

When the first public speaker, Shannon Fields, tried to bring up a concern about a particular book, Pritchard interrupted her and said Fields’ comments needed to stay on the topic of the appointee to the library board.

Two speakers later, Barbara Shaw walked up to the podium with a book in hand. 

The book, “When Aidan Became a Brother,” is about a child born a girl who didn’t feel like a girl and transitioned with her parents’ support to become a boy. Shaw, who found the book objectionable, had checked the book out from the Hamilton East Public Library. 

Shaw said her concern was the appropriateness of books available to children in the library. Pritchard said that particular books were not up for discussion.

“But why are you afraid of me sharing a book?” Shaw said in response to applause from the crowd.

Shaw continued to argue her point as Pritchard tried to restore order and as the crowd’s support for Shaw grew louder. Shaw ignored Pritchard’s requests to stop speaking and started reading from the book, even after her microphone was cut off. The crowd became more agitated, which led to most of the school board members responding by leaving for a recess, as audience members chanted, “We pay you.” 

When the meeting resumed 20 minutes later, public comment was suspended for the rest of the night. 

The board did not make an appointment to the library board during the meeting. Anyone interested in the position can submit a letter of interest through Aug. 7 to HSE Executive Assistant to the Supt. Denise Justice at djustice@hse.k12.in.us. Applicants must reside within the HSE district boundaries. Pritchard will select the appointee. 

The meeting was conducted two days after a contentious Carmel Clay Schools board meeting that included several people reading sexually explicit excerpts from books they said are available to students in Carmel schools. 


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