A school board candidate in Brevard County, Florida, was dragged away by police during a school board meeting dealing with LGBT issues Tuesday, after refusing to leave the podium. Dean Paterakis’ speaking time was cut short after he used “inappropriate” language to describe an egregious classroom incident that happened two years ago involving a male social studies teacher.
The school board was getting ready to vote on whether to schedule a public hearing about a proposed non-discrimination policy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. More than 40 Brevard residents — both supporters and opponents — had signed up to speak about the LGBT policy during the often raucous hearing.
Before the public speaking began, School Board Chairman Andy Ziegler explained their ground rules on civility.
“Please be reminded that profane, abusive, or slanderous speech is not permitted,” he said. “To clarify, we consider this Board Room an extension of the school environment and therefore, if it is not an appropriate conversation in a school, we don’t consider it appropriate conversation here.”
Paterakis spent his allotted speaking time criticizing the school board for its various defects, including its apparent history of misspending funds.
Then he got to the point of his appearance before the board Tuesday, which was to address safety in the classroom.
“The reason why I am here now is that we are not putting children’s safety first,” Paterakis said. “When you say that we need to use language that is appropriate in what we do in our schools should be what we have here. Would it be O.K. now if I showed a picture of my penis to you guys? Because that’s what happened…”
“Let’s keep it civil please,” Ziegler interrupted.
“We have a teacher who put his phone onto the big screen and showed, what the students say, was his erect penis,” Paterakis continued, referring to a 2014 incident where a BPS teacher was only suspended for 10 days for showing students a picture of his penis.
Upon hearing the penis statement, School Board member Amy Kneesy then turned to Ziegler. Ziegler then said, “That’s enough, Dean. That’s enough. It’s not appropriate. No, sorry that’s not appropriate.”
“What? Are you kidding me?” Paterakis asked Ziegler.
“No,” Ziegler replied.
A school security officer then approached Paterakis at the speaking podium and pushed down the microphone with one hand while grabbing Paterakis’ shoulder with the other hand.
The security officer then began to push Paterakis away from the podium and grabbed Paterakis’ arm with both hands. Paterakis pulled his arm away from the security officer’s grip and shouted, “I have a right. I have a right to free speech.”
Paterakis turned to Ziegler and said, “I have a right to three minutes of free speech.”
“No, Dean. I asked you to be civil,” Ziegler replied as two Brevard County Sheriff’s deputies closed in on Paterakis.
Shouts of support for Paterakis came from the audience with the chant, “Let him speak.”
Paterakis then dropped to the floor and crossed his legs and arms – a common form of civil disobedience used by protesters in the 1960’s when confronted by police.
Four additional deputies poured into the School Board meeting from various entrances and four of the six total deputies carried Paterakis out of the meeting with his arms and legs still crossed.
As the crowd continued to protest, Ziegler said, “We will not allow slanderous, abusive, or profane speech in the meeting.” He then threatened, “We can clear the room right now.”
Paterakis’ comments were somewhat profane but only because he was describing something that had actually happened in a Brevard County high school classroom in 2014, although the cellphone picture was briefly projected onto a screen accidentally.
He was charged with disrupting a school function and resisting an officer without violence and released on a $750 bond late Tuesday night.