VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — An update to Virginia Beach City Schools’ facility use policy could restrict public gatherings on school property after some employees were harassed by protesters.
For months, members of the community held rallies and gatherings outside the district administration building during school board meetings.
School leaders say the policy is meant to keep the public safe by keeping sidewalks and exits clear but some parents don’t agree, saying their First Amendment rights are being limited.
“I strongly urge that you revisit and rescind the egregious ruling that permits a requirement to peacefully assemble and get back to doing your job,” said speaker Thomas Conant during Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
The new facility use policy recently approved by the Virginia Beach School Board requires a group of more than 20 people to submit a permission form and outlines where on the property the group can meet –requiring them to stay on the sidewalk or keep a distance from the building’s main entrance.
“I’m mad. I’m a mom and I have every reason to be mad,” said speaker Annie Palumbo.
The form must be submitted 10 days before the planned gathering. A form board members Victoria Manning, Carolyn Weems and Laura Hughes have said they do not support.
“You have 10 days. You have to reserve it 10 days in advance. Now the public isn’t even going to be made aware of what’s on our agenda until the Thursday before our Tuesday meeting. I hope that someone’s going to challenge this in the court system because that’s what needs to be done,” Manning stated.
Those who don’t comply will be asked to leave school property. If they refuse, the police will be called. Groups less than 20 do not need to fill out a form. The facility use policy change goes into effect on Nov. 12. Those who wish to gather can fill out a single form with multiple dates or recurring dates.
Speaker Paula Chang also brought a stack of notarized petitions to the podium demanding the VBCPS board members be recalled.
In addition to changing the policy about gatherings on school property, the Virginia Beach School Board also voted unanimously to make lacrosse a varsity sport.
According to previous reporting by the WAVY Sportswrap, the only major metropolitan area on the East Coast that does not have high school-sanctioned public school varsity lacrosse is Hampton Roads.
Virginia Beach has been discussing the move for a while. Club teams have also gradually gained interest in the region; eight Virginia Beach schools have previously formed both boys and girls club teams.
Virginia Beach School Board Chair Carolyn Rye, who has been a strong advocate for varsity lacrosse, confirmed with 10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox this will begin in the spring of 2023. There will be 11 high school teams boys and girls. Club teams will continue until then.
“This speaks to the sustained commitment of the lacrosse community over the last 10 years. This is about students and expanding extracurricular activities,” Rye said.